In the midst of global political and economic upheaval, people are struggling, trying to find a way to still celebrate the holiday season. The entire year has been challenging and even as it wraps up, it still shows no sign of letting up on the relentless assault on our lives.
In years past, people of various faiths and religious beliefs have furiously battled over the appropriate way to deal with the holiday season. Even within Christianity there are debates about the way December 25th should be celebrated, or if it should be celebrated at all.
Last week we began discussing some of the controversies surrounding December 25th and how we, as Believers, can stop merely REACTING to the negative origins of this date and begin making wise RESPONSES to this season.
We are offering at least Five Godly Responses to December 25th.
Last week we presented response #1: Become All Things to All Men, according to 1 Corinthians 9:18-23.
This week we offer response #2: Don’t cause your brother to stumble - 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 (NKJV)
In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul was dealing with a matter that was very similar to the controversial December 25th issues. Some Believers were participating in the practice of eating food that was offered to idols. They didn’t feel restricted because they knew that the idols were not real gods and they also knew that what goes into a person is not what defiles them.
It’s the same for Christian Believers today who participate in modern December 25th rituals that have proven historical foundation in idol worship (The sun god and a season known as Saturnalia). They feel, just as those early Believers to whom Paul had written, that they are free in Christ Jesus. Therefore, they have no problem with celebrating December 25th with some of the pagan mixtures.
Many educated Believers know that Christmas was started as something that was seperate from Saturnalia and sun god celebrations, but a lot of those pagan rituals became mixed in with the celebration of Christ; even confusing December 25th as Christ's date of birth, when it was actually a celebration of His coming to save mankind, not a commemoration of the day He was born.
However, Paul admonished those early Believers to not allow their freedom to cause another brother to stumble. He explained that due to his brother's conscience, he did not have internal permission to participate in that practice of eating food offered to idols.
If another Believer is struggling with our practices, it may wound their conscience. Paul actually says that we sin against our brother and Christ. The sin is not the practice itself, but it is in how the participation affects our brothers.
Let’s read the letter: “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
We realize that even though there are many things that are okay for Chris and Carol to do, as Spiritual life coaches and leaders in this community, they are not always expedient. Some things are not wise for us to do. Some things are not beneficial for us to do. There are many things that we were at liberty to say and do in Missouri that have proven to be offensive in Pennsylvania. So we don't do them for the sake of our brothers and sisters in this region and culture.
Why abstain? Well, because we have an extremely important mission and purpose. Some of our freedoms could go beyond merely offending another brother, and could actually cause them to stumble. Paul says that some of our freedoms could actually wound another brother’s conscience. Our freedoms can cause others, who are outside of the Faith, to continue in their ungodly practices. So, we have learned that some things are just not worth it. Why risk losing potential brothers and sisters or wounding current brothers and sisters?
What are we saying to you today? We're saying, please be very careful of what you practice in this controversial season. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you the 'yea and nay' about what you do. Don't question Him. Just obey Him.
We cannot, do not, must not, and will not dictate what goes on in your home. We’re not the December 25th police! God knows who is in your family and He knows the people who are part of your life. You might be connected to people with whom your response is based upon what we mentioned last week ….I have become, to those who are without law, as without law.
Most of today’s December 25th practices don’t cause people any internal conflict because they have no knowledge of the history. But if you are closely connected with Believing family members who have issues with these things, be very wise and sensitive to where they are in their conscience. They would require the response from last week's scripture .…I become to those who are under the law, as under the law.
Remember, a person’s beliefs are often deeply rooted in teachings, upbringing, personal interpretation, history and life-long understandings. It really is a matter of their conscience. Don’t force someone to violate their own conscience. It’s not simply a matter of whether THEY are right or wrong about December 25th. Don’t let your freedom cause your brother to stumble.
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