When people are around you, do they get glimpses of God? Or do they just see a lot of knowledge?
First Corinthians 8:1-3 says, "Now concerning food offered to idols, we know that all of us possess knowledge. This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know, but if anyone loves God, he is known by God."
The issue Paul is talking about is that of eating food offered to idols. A lot of the Corinthians had come out of a pagan background where they spent their lives worshiping these idols. To the best of my knowledge, the reason there was controversy over eating the meat that had been offered to idols was because some of the Corinthians believed that demons actually inhabited this meat. They believed that the idol would actually cleanse the meat of those demons. To eat the meat, now inhabited by their god or idol was an act of worship.
Some of the more mature believers in Corinth recognized that, really, there was no such thing as an idol—an idol was not really God—so eating the meat from the idols was no big deal. But so many others still felt in their consciences that eating that meat was almost like idol worship. The Bible says the attitudes of the more mature believers wounded the consciences of the newer believers. Paul's point in writing to them about the whole thing was to say, "Yes, you're right in that those idols aren't really God. But that's not the point. The point is that you more mature believers are not thinking about those younger in the faith.
I love what Paul says in verse 13. He says, "If food makes my brother stumble, I'll never eat meat again, lest I make my brother stumble." Paul is saying that he loves his brother so much that he'd go vegan if he had to! Eating meat was just not that big of deal to him in light of the love he had for his brother. He says in verse 11, "By your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died." If that's not enough, he goes on to say, "When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ."
We admire Paul for so many things—his theology, his understanding of God—but I love Paul just as much for his love for people. You can see this love throughout his writings. Probably the most powerful statement he makes is in Romans 9: "I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying. My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
When I read that, I think, That's impossible. I care for people, but I can't imagine ever making a statement like that. Can he really mean that?
But he starts the passage saying, "I'm speaking the truth, I'm not lying, my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit." He anticipates that I'm not going to believe him, that love that extreme could not be real! But he's telling us the truth. And he says he has this "unceasing anguish" in his heart for those he loves who are lost. Does that describe how you feel about those you love?
Love is better than knowledge
First John 4:12, says, "No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us." Somehow we're supposed to embody God's love. John says that no one here has ever seen him. But if we love one another, God abides in us. If we could love each other the way God wanted us to, someone who doesn't even know God, who has never seen him, should be able to walk into this room and see the love of God. As Christ embodied God in the flesh, we are now that incarnation of God. People aren't going to see God, but if we would love each other the way God called us to, they would see God's love in us, and they would actually get a glimpse of him.