Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Word for Wednesday: 15 April Edition

Back to 1 Corinthians, where I've been reading (chapter 10, verses 23 to the end):
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. Eat anything that is sold in the meat market, without asking questions for conscience' sake: for the earth is the Lord's and all that it contains. If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience' sake. But if anyone should say to you, "This is meat sacrificed to idols," do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience' sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man's; for why is my freedom judged by another's conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.
One of the easier traps we can fall into, I think, is to ignore the context of passages such as this one and overextend them out of context to make them seem to say things that they don't really say. On the other hand, there is usually a more general principle that is particularized in such passages, that can and should be considered more generally. Here I think the general principle is the relative unimportance of the material basis of many (or most? or all?) scruples, relative to the transcendent importance of our motivations for doing something or avoiding it, and the even greater importance of the effect of our actions or abstentions on the people around us: our fellow fully-permanent images of the Living God. Every one of these, as C. S. Lewis wrote, is destined to become eternally either a surpassing wonder or a surpassing horror: ultimately, there are no "ordinary people," and what we do with / to / for / about every person we encounter is more or less our main business. At least, that's how it reads to me.

As always: more Words for Wednesdays here.

2 comments:

akaGaGa said...

This is precisely why I left the last two churches I attended. I did not want to be seen as endorsing what was being preached. The first had fallen into latter rain theology, and more recently the new pastor is preaching secular humanism.

In both cases, I spoke with the pastors involved, citing scripture. In both cases, they blew me off. Despite what they claim, I guess scripture isn't that important in the church any more.

This concept has been in my heart for many years, but somehow I never associated it with this passage. Thank you for posting.

Sorry I was late getting here, but I was in Albany today at the tea party.

Jim Wetzel said...

Scripture can be incredibly inconvenient. I find that it very regularly tells me to quit doing things that I'm doing, and to start doing things that I'm not.

Who's right -- me, or God? Hmmmmmm. I'll have to puzzle over that one for a few nanoseconds.