Paul continues down his list of questions which the church at Corinth had sent him in their letter. Now, we may see this chapter as irrelevant to the way we live now: it wouldn't rank anywhere in the list of questions we might like to send Paul! However, I had an interesting conversation with a couple of guests who attended the church I led in Cornwall. As our fellowship was in the most visited county in the UK, it was no surprise that we often had people pop in on a Sunday whilst on holiday and this couple came, but she wanted to know the answer to a question which had been bothering her and that was, 'Should she eat meat from animals which had been slaughtered the Halal way?' She had a point as a prayer is offered to Allah as the animal is killed: was she then eating meat which had been offered as sacrifice to an idol? I pointed her to this chapter and we spoke about the protective covering of the Holy Spirit. I told her about an incident when our children were young. Our daughter was due to visit a Muslim worship place as part of her religious education and we were concerned. We spoke about it in house group and one wise person responded by saying that it wasn't our daughter we should be worried about as she had the protection of Jesus, but we should pray for the others in her class who had no such shield. Interestingly, Jews slaughter animals in a very similar way to Muslims, but don't offer a prayer as they do so. Whatever your feelings of this passage's relevance, it lays down a fundamental principle of Christian living: even if a thing is harmless to you, when it hurts a fellow believer it should be given up, for you should never do anything which would cause someone to stumble. In modern living, I would put the issues of drinking alcohol in the presence of a recovering alcoholic as the most common issue, but also watching horror movies or ones with adult content, gambling, getting involved in seances and such like or even swearing. Some of the Corinthians were using such occasions to show off their new-found freedom. Their superior knowledge had taught them that heathen gods did not exist, but they acted without thought of others and used it to demonstrate their superiority rather than to act compassionately.
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