Dining in an Idol’s Temple
New Zealand’s Diverse Culture
Auckland has an abundance of culture. We live in a multi-cultural society with multiple beliefs. But what does this mean when it comes to intolerance? If we claim there is one God, we are accused of being small minded and bigoted? But yet, if we are accused of this, is not the accuser being intolerant of our beliefs? The reasoning is circular. But when it comes to relating to followers of other religions what does this mean for those of us who follow Jesus? Are we able to eat and drink with people from other religions? What if this food has been ‘blessed’ in the name of another god? Do we even hang out with such sorts?
Before we address some of these questions let’s first remember that these are very valid questions, particularly when living in such a diverse city. Here in Auckland we live among people who have family shrines, restaurants with idols and temples for other gods. In the Bible Paul write a letter to the church of Corinth that addresses just these issues. 1Corinthians Chapter 8 will guide us in terms of how do we address the questions we have raised:
Are there other gods?
1 Cor 8:4: “We know that ‘An idol is nothing at all in the world’ and that “There is no God but one.”
Jer 10:5: “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”
Jesus is the only living God. The only God. He rose from the the dead. Early Christians worshiped Jesus as God. Why? Because they recognized him for who he was, they saw him rise from the dead. In Judaism this is reemphasized the shema, their daily prayer – there is one God and one God alone.
1Cor 8:8-6 this is reiterated:”There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
Although other people and cultures live as though other gods are ‘real’, make not mistake, there is only one true God.
Western gods in Auckland
Everyone worships something. To worship is to treat something with an expression of adoration, to give it a focal point within our life. To worship anything above God is to worship it as a god. What does this look like for you? Size of your bank balance, chasing the house ladder, the type of car you drive, following a set of rituals?
Everyone has a god of some form. If it is not Jesus Christ, it is demonic.
According to 1Cor 10:20 any sacrifice (an act of worship) of pagans are offered to demons, not to God.
This should concern us. Any type of worship that is not of God, is to that of demons.
Having Biblical Knowledge
Through the bible we have knowledge that there is no other gods. In that fact, we can act in complete freedom knowing they don’t exist.
1Cor 8:4 – “an idol is nothing at all in this world”
1Cor 8:8 – Food will not make us acceptable to God, it makes us not better or worse in his sight.
Howe we treat other gods does not make us better or worse in God’s sight. They don’t even exist!
WARNING: With this knowledge, can come pride. We are warned of this in Cor 8:1 pride puffs us up.
Through biblical knowledge we know that idols are nothing. But there will be those that will come that don’t know any better. If they see our ‘care free’ attitude towards other gods or practices, their conscious can be defiled (1Cor 8:7). This same principle applies today towards our Christian brothers and sisters. For example: drinking alcohol, smoking, having tattoos etc. We know that these are not sins, we know we have freedom in Christ. In this freedom our default attitude is often to act without lovingly considering how our attitude is affects others.
With Knowledge Must Come Love
If we love God, we are known by God (1Cor 8:3). God, through His son Jesus, via his spirit, has enabled us to be able to love him. The fruit of this is to love one another, and those in our christian family. So what does this mean when in how we treat others.
1Cor 8:9-11 Lack of knowledge can be foolishness, a stumbling block to others!
So, having ‘biblical knowledge’ can be both disastrous to us, and disastrous to others
1Cor 8:13, we should be careful not to cause others to stumble and fall into sin.
So wahat does this mean. It means that we must handle and operate our knowledge with an attitude of love.
KNOWEDGE + LOVE = To think about how we act toward others.
How Will You Love?
So… knowledge in itself is not bad. We should strive to build our knowledge. We should be wise in how we apply this knowledge in our lives. And we must implement the applications of knowledge in love.
Don’t come to church to “boost your knowledge”. This is dangerous. As we have seen, this can puff ourselves up and it can be disastrous (1Cor 8:1). Let us continue growing in knowledge, loving one another, living in a way in which we consider what we ‘do’ and ‘don’t do’ when we are around others – that they may benefit from our conduct.
Let our conscience be captive by the word of God.