|A253 : by Tony Garland |
I believe that the principles that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 8 apply in general: mature Christians have freedoms based on their more complete understanding of God's revelation (the Bible) that younger Christians may not yet comprehend. In addition, some brothers and sisters may not feel as free to engage in activities which Scripture permits due to previous experiences in life.
Paul's main point in the chapter is to set forth the guiding principle for the behavior and motive of all believers: love for a brother or sister who would be stumbled if we fully exercised certain freedoms. As Christians, we must be willing to set our own personal freedom aside for the benefit of another believer in Christ if it would have a negative influence upon their walk with Christ.
In the case of the church at Corinth, Paul was discussing the consumption of food items which had previously been dedicated to pagan idols. In our culture the issues would typically be different. For example, we are free, as Christians, to partake of alcohol (Scripture teaches temperance rather than abstinence). However, if a fellow believer has difficulty with the consumption of alcohol—whether due to simple matters of conscience or from prior personal or family experience with the adverse effects of alcoholism—out of concern for them and their Christian walk, we would set aside our personal freedom and not partake.
Thus, we must walk by the rule of love which requires that we be mature enough to apply the Biblical principle in our daily life, evaluating each situation that we find ourselves in. Some behaviors and activities are completely prohibited for all Christians—they are relatively simpler to evaluate and know how to respond appropriately. Others, while permissible, may be unwise or unloving in the given situation and call for greater wisdom, knowledge of Scripture, and desire to place the wellbeing of others above our personal freedom.