Friday, June 20, 2008

The Weak Brother

1 Cor. 8:7-13 (ESV)
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. [8] Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. [9] But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. [10] For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? [11] And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. [12] Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. [13] Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

And here we have the weak brother. Sometimes we have to for the sake of those who are weaker than us forego a freedom we have in Christ. But I am often amazed at how this text is also abused, and applied to things that have nothing to do with the context. Here I mean such things as drinking a beer, or smoking. Often the so-called weak brother is not a weak brother at all, but a Pharisee in sheep’s clothing who is trying to bind your conscience. In doing this the “weak brother,” is actually putting a stumbling block not only in your path, but in the path of those around you. They give credence to the idea that Christianity is about a list of rules one must follow in life, and works righteousness. These people do not believe the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, is for Christians, but is a one time offer for those who want to accept the list of rules and follow them here on out. We cannot afford to let these people speak unchallenged. The Christian religion is not about rules. It is about the cross, where Christ freely forgave all your sins before and after becoming a Christian. It is for this reason that Paul would not eat meat offered to idols. He wanted the weak brother to focus on Christ and the cross, and not have his gaze turned from the cross to futile works and sacrifices offered to false gods. There are times when foregoing your Christian freedom to eat at a Hindu temple needs to be passed over for the sake of those around you. But there are more often times that living out your Christian freedom, and celebrating the forgiveness of sins you have in Christ, is a greater show of love for your neighbor. The love of Christ, not the law, is what defines Christian identity.


steve martin said...

Pastor Erickson,

Do you not ever strike out?

Must you hit a home run every time?

I guess when you speak of the cross and the freedom that Christ has won for us there on that battleground, you can't help but hit a home run.

If we see the cross as the end of all our religious projects, and the risen Jesus the begining of our authentic life in Christ...we can't help be see that He has hit all our home runs for us.

Thanks Pastor!

- Steve Martin

Bror Erickson said...

Thanks for all your encouragement. I have actually been out of town for most of the last two weeks. So sorry I haven't replied much. I just dropped Dr. Rosenbladt off at the airport. Had a great time with him. He is the one who trained me to swing the bat. your in his area, I recomend sitting in on a class of his some time over at Irvine.

steve martin said...


I hope you had a good visit with the good Dr. He's a pretty heavy hitter and he's taught you well.

I like to sit in on one of his classes.As soon as he finds out that I'm a ELCA guy (only by affiliation, not in Spirit with this current crowd of morons) he'll make me sit ion the corner with a dunce cap on.

But's that's alright, I'm used to it by now.


steve martin said...

Ignore the 'T' (i have no idea where that came from.

My two flying fingers may get me in trouble some day to the point where somebody only gives me one of theirs.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Erickson,

Man you batted that one out of the park! I was just struggling with that one because this holiday the issue may come up in a family gathering. We keep wine around and some of my wife's family is pure legal on that issue. This is one of their 'hip pocket' verses.

Just today on my way to work I was wondering, "how do you refute that" abused weaker brother argument?

This one was hard for me to see as an ex-agnostic/atheist, since I didn't "sacrifice" religiously in the past. But it is a brilliant dispelling of the superstitiously abused interpretation of that passage.

In short what Paul IS saying is a weaker brother, in context, might see you 'who knows better', eating meats supposedly sacrificed to an idol (this would be rare in America today given it's secular nature). The weaker is the one who may suddenly think or fall back, "Oh no, Christ is NOT NEARLY enough" and thus eat food offered to an idol TO BE OK WITH "GOD".

In fact this verse hammers more against pietism and church yard works in which the same thing goes on. Namely displayed by busy body church duty; "Though we confess 'faith alone', Christ is not nearly enough" as displayed by my church yard busy bodyness. Except here those doing it are not strong but denying Christ.

In short it is EXACTLY the same thing Paul admonished Peter for in Galatians, covering up the Gospel. Except in that case it involved "not eating a thing" as opposed to "eating a thing" in order to "be right with God/god/gods".

Peter's error in Galatians, in America, we are more 'in tune' in seeing, abstaining since that still lingers in most church circles in various forms (abstaining sacrifices). However, since little eating of idol foods goes on in our culture this verse is harder to understand in context. However, in say in the deep of Africa or South America you might find this principle more so as the more technologically primative cultures positively sacrifice and eat the food.

Yours truly,