1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 When you are called to take a stand, stand with Christ and imitate Him
1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
Some quarters of the Jewish community were accusing apostle Paul for having fellowship with demons by eating with Gentiles whose food were offered to idols. In defence, Paul said that he could eat all things without questioning if it had prior been offered to idols for the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains (1 Corinthians 10:26). However, he asserted that the guiding principle when it comes to dealing with the Gentiles (who had different traditions and cultures) is to act consistently with Christ’s values and to love them. Today’s devotion teaches us that the spirit of the law is not to divide, but to love all people despite their peculiar traditions and religious heritage. In whatever circumstances, when you are called upon to take a stand, stand with Christ and imitate Him.
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
The act of giving glory to God involves a heart that is fully yielded under God’s rule. The Greek term for glory has a few nuances one of which is judgment or opinion over something. Hence, to do all to the glory of God simply means doing things that are consistent with God’s values system. For one can easily follow traditions and laws without understanding the underlying principles. Paul came to the conclusion, that a believer in all his endeavours should not subject himself to stifling traditions that divide but to serve God’s purposes. When faced with a complex situation (in Paul’s case, it’s eating with Gentiles), salvation of souls must be given foremost consideration.
Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
Paul, in addressing this potentially explosive matter qualifies himself: Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God. He had no intention of offending the Jews, the Greeks or the church should they find his stand offensive. For Paul only had the church’s profit in mind hoping that all may be saved. As there were no straightforward answers to satisfy all parties with their respectively laws and opinions, Paul chose to stand with Christ having one objective in mind: the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
The supreme purpose of man is not to satisfy laws and traditions but to live consistently like Christ lived. Paul, by putting traditions and laws in their correct place, set forth the spirit of Christianity: to become imitators of Christ. The end of all laws is to edify and to love all people despite their peculiar traditions and religious heritage.
When you are called upon to take a stand, stand with Christ.
Paul faced a dicey dilemma when he had to take a stand that would forever cast in stone the ethos of Christendom. On one hand, the Jews were intransigent about not getting themselves involved with the Gentiles citing issues concerning food offered to idols. The Gentiles, on the other hand were ready for the gospel and had to be integrated into the church community. However, their Gentile traditions and religious heritage were vastly different from that of the Jews. If Paul were to stand with the Jews, the Gentiles would be lost forever. But if he were to stand with the Gentiles, he would risk alienating the Jews and split the church. It seemed that whatever decisions Paul made, it would be impossible to please everyone.
Our decisions, in whatever circumstances must be founded upon unchanging principles. We must never absolve ourselves from the stress of making sound decisions by playing to the tunes of others. The man who tries to appease the parties involved will soon become everybody’s enemy. But if he is steadfast on just principles, he will be respected by all. Paul stood on the unchanging principles of God: Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Risking possible backlash from the Jews, Paul imitated Christ who Himself ate and drank with sinners and tax collectors of His time.
The chief aim of Christianity and its practices is to cause believers to live like Christ.
The life of Christ and the manner in which He lived is the very definition of godliness and abundant living. It is through Christ that God gave humanity a model, a living example of what it means to live. Jesus’ life is exemplary of a meaningful life, a rich life, a glorious life, and a perfect life. Therefore, pastors, leaders and parents must learn to conform to Christ before they can be effective in raising the next generation. If pastors, leaders and parents fail in this endeavour, we are setting our children up to return to the dark ages.
If God were to give our pastors, leaders and parents one purpose, it will be to shepherd the sheep and the children towards Christ-likeness. It is so easy for leaders to stray from God’s original purpose while tending to their flock and their children’s needs. A self-serving generation of consumers hungry for personal gain is emerging and soon flooding the nation with their relentless appetites and wants. It is no wonder that children abandoning their parents have become common occurrences. Many churches too have degenerated into establishments that appeal to the flock’s wants and wishes. People pack into opulent churches for a brief reprieve from real world problems with simplistic promises of a glorious future if only they “believe”. For many, the weekly dose of hope enhancing songs and bold proclamations of God’s grace that worked begin to feel trite and tiring.
The purpose and goal of the church and the great commission is to teach believers to conform to Christ, namely His mindset and passion. It is in conforming to Christ that believers experience abundant living, the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. Jesus, in His last words before He ascended to the Father gave a command in an ultimatum:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus’ command (traditionally viewed as the great commission of the church) is in fact a modus operandi for abundant living. Believers through baptism have resolved to identify themselves with Christ’s exemplary existence. It is through baptism that believers begin to live vicariously through Him in His death and in His resurrection. It is through Christ’s life that believers redefine their human experience and destiny. Pastors, leaders and parents are given the task to teach the later generations to observe all that I commanded you.
Paul, the apostle made himself an example so that he could inspire believers to imitate Christ: Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. Christ Himself was accused for violating the law when He fellowshipped with sinners and tax collectors. Similarly, Paul risked alienating the Jews and the church when he ate with the Gentiles whose custom was to offer food to their idols before their meals. Paul, in his circumstances demonstrated Christ-likeness in not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. Would we when placed in a similar dilemmas choose to put the welfare of others before our own? Would we absolve ourselves from the risk of being ostracised for doing the right thing?
At the close of the ages, how are believers judged? It is not by the depth and breath of my biblical knowledge. It is not by my standing in the church or society. It is not by the level of involvement in church activities or the amount of money I have given to charity. But rather, it is by the extent we and our children have exhibited the life and spirit of Christ.
What is the chief and constant pursuit of your life? Is it to earn enough for retirement? Is it to make sure your children are well equipped to fend for themselves? These are legitimate and critical concerns of survival in this life, but from the perspective of eternity, not the most important. Many are concerned mostly for the needs of this life but are totally unprepared for eternity. They have built savviness and resourcefulness in matters pertaining to the earthly life but are rookies in matters of the Spirit. The greatest gain a man can have comes not from hard work alone, but from the faith of Christ-likeness. The psalmist prophesied concerning the prosperity of one who is righteous and who lends to the needy,
Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light arises in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and compassionate and righteous. It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; he will maintain his cause in judgment. For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever. Psalms 112:1-6
Make it your primary pursuit to observe the life of Christ through the gospels and to imitate Him.
Dear Lord, stir within my spirit the passion for the things of God and to know you. Reveal to me your mindset, and your passion for the kingdom. Cause me to experience your miracles and your heavenly peace and joy. Use me to work miracles and demonstrate your grace to the people around me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.