Friday, August 21, 2015

To Build a House

Good morning,

No, I'm not going to literally build a house, or am I even contemplating such a venture.  Been there, done that (2x) and "got the tee shirt".  I've been reading 1 Corinthians 8 and studying the concept of "edification".  The original Greek word is "oikodomeno", which translates as (you guessed it) "to build a house".  From it comes another English word: "edifice".

In chapter 8 Paul is addresses a surface issue of whether or not the Corinthian Christians should eat meat that had previously been offered to an idol.  Pagans of that day commonly offered both meat and wine in acts of worship to false gods.  Afterwards, the same foodstuffs were sold in the marketplace.  One argument in favor of eating these items with a clear consciences was that it was "only meat".  Since the idols were false gods anyway, the meat was not imbued with any special powers or any taint.  Paul agreed that this was true (vs. 8).  However, he also pointed out a different, deeper issue.  The Corinthians were asking him the wrong question.  Look at vs. 10-13 (MSG):

10 For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.
11-13 Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.
Paul also addressed this matter to the Romans (see ch. 14), as he wrote that book while he was in Corinth. Romans was written a couple of years after the letters to the Corinthians.  How does this chapter apply to us today?  Idol meat is not generally an issue, strictly speaking. However, there are other matters of Christian conscience that apply, in a broader sense.  Romans 14:14 says this:

“I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

I'm not talking about doctrinal teachings on which the scriptures are clear.  I'm talking about matters of individual conviction from the Holy Spirit.  Let's say that you have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic.  Your conscience says that an occasional alcoholic beverage is permissible; according to your personal convictions, your "knowledge" as Paul calls it, taking an occasional drink is not going to negatively affect you personally because this is not an area of weakness for you.  So, you invite your friend over to your house and drink in front of him.  Does flaunting your strength in the face of his weakness help to "build his house"?  What about the friend who is struggling with a gambling addiction.  Do you take her to Harrah's or crow about how you won $1000 on an instant game last week?

I'm not trying to throw all of us back into a world of legalism here, because that is not what the Bible teaches.  I am pointing out, though, that God expects us to "build into" our Christian brothers and sisters and that sometimes that means giving up something in our own lives that hinders their Christian growth.  The question is: do we love them enough to make that sacrifice?  Do we love Jesus enough to make that sacrifice? (vs. 12)

Are you familiar with the structural properties of the architectural feature known as "the arch"?  It is often seen in buildings, especially ancient buildings of renown.  Perhaps one of the reasons these buildings have stood over the centuries is because of their strong arches.  In the arch, each stone leans on the one adjacent to it, providing a system of mutual support.  Like in the arch, edification is a corporate system of mutual support.  We edify each other in the Body of Christ by encouraging one another, exhorting each other, holding each other accountable and, yes, sacrificing our own desires for the sake of another. (vs. 13)  See also Romans 14:21.

Paul was not only a tentmaker; he was a master builder in the kingdom of God.  No matter our earthly occupation or work career, the greater question is whether or not we are building God's house in the spiritual sense by edifying our Christian brothers and sisters.  One thing is sure:  there is no middle ground.  Either we are tearing down, or we are building up.

Dear Lord, you are kicking my spiritual butt lately.  You and I both know what I'm talking about. Too often I fall prey to the prevalent cultural meme: "It's all about me!!"  That justifies doing exactly what I (selfishly) want, regardless of whether or not it harms a brother or sister in Christ.  Please transform me into the strongest possible "living stone", so that the beautiful arches of my Christian community will be strong.  This is only possible through the strength that comes from You, O Lord.  Through my weakness, show Yourself mighty!  In Jesus' name, amen.


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