I sat through many long and boring lectures to get to where I am today. I have sacrificed comfort and joy listening to professors’ drone on about their particular take on a piece of scripture, theology or history. And I did it all for you, so I could be an Anglican priest. You’re welcome!
One particular New Testament scholar I knew went on and on about his favorite subject – idol meat. Apparently, you can place Paul’s letters in the order they were written based on his developing opinion of whether Christians should eat meat offered at shrines to idols. Currently, the letters are ordered in the Bible based on size, longest to shortest.
I could never figure how such knowledge mattered, especially at the bedside of a dying person. Perhaps I was being lazy and I should try and figure out why the subject of idol meat was so important to my professor. Maybe our very salvation depended on our knowledge of Paul’s musings regarding the idol meat dilemma.
In my studies of idol meat I came across this quote from Paul, “Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him” (1 Cor. 8:1-13). Fantastic! Idol meat wasn’t the issue, knowledge wasn’t even the issue: love is the issue. Whatever we do, we are to do it with love. We can remain as ignorant as we want, but once we know about something, we are to act according to love. That is how God will know us.
Eating idol meat is not an issue for us but we make decision every day that can affect the faith journey of those around us. The essential question for Paul is not the eating of meat offered to idols, but whether our actions are done with love. For, as Paul says, “knowledge puffs us, love builds up.”