I have the power to crush people with what I do and what I say, and so do you. It can happen with words or actions that are neither direct nor intentional. This calls for caution and is why Paul sets a high standard. Believers must be an example and be willing to sacrifice personal preference and freedom. The freedom gained by the knowledge of Christ can trip up spiritually weaker believers, so Paul writes, “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.” (1 Corinthians 8:11)

Destroyed? That is a strong language. This calls for focus and care. Let’s look at a couple of principles in response:

+ A believer can be “defiled” or “destroyed” by their own conscience, even if they are wrong about a specific theological truth.

+ People’s pasts inevitably shape the way they respond to and live out the gospel. (However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 1 Corinthians 8:7.)

+ We point people to truth and reality, but we meet them where they actually are.

Are you willing to meet people right where they are, even letting their ignorance and bondage affect what you say and do around them? Honestly, this is more of a secondary focus. A believer’s primary focus is on the positive, not the negative. “Work to build others up in the Lord” is primary. “Be careful not to tear someone down” is secondary. Being secondary means it may not be our usual area of focus, but neglecting it can cause great individual harm and can have devastating effects on a church.

When driving a car, looking down the road is primary, and stepping on the breaks when traffic stops is secondary. Secondary doesn’t mean not important, rather, it is what one does in response to the situation. So, are you willing to let a believer’s situation, weakness, past trauma, or mistakes limit your spiritual freedom to help them and not harm them? Pray for wisdom to have this kind of focus and care.

John Riley
Junior High Pastor

Subscribe to the Daily Fill