The Care and Feeding of Recovering Idolaters
Today’s reading: Psalms 132-135; I Corinthians 8
15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 16 They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; 17 they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them. Psalm 135:15-18
“…we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” I Corinthians 8:4b
Although idol worshipers are reduced to less than human, they are not beyond the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. When converted idolaters enter the church, more mature members must be sensitive to them as they grow in the knowledge of the Lord.
Scripture tells us that there is One God, the Creator of all things, who made Man in His own image and after His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). But what happens when people reject their God? They replace Him with some other “god,” one of their own imagination. The psalmist tells us that the impact on these idolaters is not positive, not even neutral, but, rather, it is very negative. Worshipers start looking like the one they worship. If they worship a non-existent god of their own fabrication, they are diminished to the level of their god.
Despite the apparent hopeless state of those reduced to less than humans, by God’s grace and sovereign election to salvation, some are redeemed. Paul indicates that this happened in the city of Corinth (I Corinthians 6:9-11). Praise God!
The flip-side of this reality was that the church was populated by new believers recovering from a vast host of sins. There was an ever-present danger of causing stumbling and offenses among this mix of young disciples. Paul gives them some urgent advice about the care and feeding of recovering idolaters. Of course, idols don’t exist but former idol worshipers could easily be offended by seeing their fellow Christians eating at pagan feasts or enjoying food previously offered to idols. The point is, “don’t make your brother stumble even if what you are doing is not technically wrong.”
Do you need to limit your freedom in order to keep a brother or sister from stumbling? Do you need to grow in the conviction that there is but One God, so that you progress in your sanctification, fleeing the baggage of your sinful past? Think about it.