Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Being "Offensive"

I love what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 about getting along in the midst of differing opinions. Through the years I have probably been harsher on not being offensive toward a "weaker brother" than I have been about the weaker brother not insisting on his opinion.

Edward Fudge has some interesting insights into this passage that has caused me to reconsider some things. Here it is:  

A gracEmail subscriber writes: "In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul urges us to avoid even innocent activities if our doing them 'offends' a weak brother or sister. My own relatives and friends include different people who object to using instrumental music in church, celebrating Christmas, playing cards, women wearing pants, wearing clothes with zippers, and drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation. Am I required to cease every activity to which anyone happens to object?"

Regarding this subject, people easily go to either of two opposite extremes. On the one hand, some selfish, immature and headstrong believers insist on exercising their personal freedom, even when they have reason to believe that their doing so will cause a fellow-believer to sin. On the other hand, some selfish, immature and headstrong believers use this chapter as a tool for tyranny, when they try to restrict the conduct of others based on their own personal scruples. Both groups would provoke apostolic frustration.

I once helped a church decide to use unfermented grape juice in the Lord's Supper in consideration of a brother who was a struggling alcoholic. However, while preaching for a different church and having grown a beard, I was approached one Sunday by a sister who said: "Brother Fudge, your beard offends me." To which I replied, as kindly as I knew how, "Really, sister? What sin does it make you want to commit?" She read the word "offend" in her King James Version of 1 Corinthians 8:13 and confused it with provoking a negative reaction. In fact, the verb translated "to offend" in the KJV, in today's English really means "to stumble" (ESV, NASB) or "to fall into sin" (NIV).

We can summarize Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 8 in one sentence: When I am with another believer, who I know considers some innocent activity to be sinful, if I have reason to suppose that my doing that activity might cause that believer to do it also, then I should momentarily set aside my personal rights in order to avoid causing that believer to sin by doing something that he or she considers to be wrong.


Jeff said...

I've heard this scripture and the "I've become all things to all men" scripture used to show a conflict in the Bible writing.

If we all had the mind of God, I know things would be much easier but if we would all just strive to live as Christ-like as possible, both these verses would be much easier to live out.

By the way (that's an idiom), I still like you on the move when you are preaching. The sitting style does seem more casual but I prefer the roving style. Maybe you can mix it up from time to time. The next thing we know, you'll want to preach without a tie cutting off the circulation to your head.

randy said...

The other question to ask someone offended by a questionable matter is whether they are a "weaker" brother.