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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 8:1–13

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall. (NRSV)

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” I am convicted by Paul’s words. I constantly feel like I have so much more to learn about our larger world. What should I read or to whom should I listen that might help me better understand Chicago’s history of segregation by neighborhood? Might that knowledge help me comprehend the discrepancies of poverty and opportunity? Or which newspaper or podcast could help me gain a fuller perspective on the history of our relationship with the Korean peninsula? Might that knowledge help me be more articulate when discussing the global politics of tweets? Honestly, the more chaos I feel, the more I am driven to search for knowledge. It is as if I think I could find a solution if I just knew so much more.

Perhaps that is true, though I doubt it. Now don’t get me wrong: growing in knowledge is critical. If we desire to live as healthy, contributing members of our democracy, we must be in a constant state of learning. Yet growing in knowledge will only take us so far, especially if our sense of being smart begins to serve as a barrier between us and the others we deem as less wise.

“Knowledge puffs up,” Paul warns, “but love builds up.” What could God create if, every time we felt the power of chaos growing stronger, we were at least as driven to grow deeper in our love as we were driven to grow deeper in our knowledge? What kind of world, church, life, could be built by that drive—a drive to love more deeply?

Gracious Lord, may I be driven by love this day. May my awareness of your love grow deeper in my soul so much so that I decide to express it in my actions towards myself and others. And may the way I live be used by you to build up that love in our world. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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