I recently was out with some friends, and at the table next to me I overheard two software engineers having a heated discussion, one of those that should never be done in public because everyone around cannot help but be brought into it. It was over a piece of software they were working on, and, quite frankly, I could not understand a thing about what they were talking about. What was interesting was at a certain point the argument switched from the software to their own personal superiority to the other. It was a sad display and after a few minutes when we realized it was not going to stop leaned over and said the “you do realize you’re in public” line, making both go red.
I start here because the passage we have this Sunday banks on conversations that the two software engineers were having; both were obviously smart and well educated, but somewhere they lost sight of each other’s humanity in order puff up their own egos.
The passage we have this Sunday is similar to this fight, but a software program is not the issue, it is the dietary laws. It is hard for us to think that the people in the early church would fight over such a thing, but this was a big deal. and really the battles over the dietary laws would split communities, even lead to abuses, superiority, and other problems much worse than the embarrassment faced by the two engineers.
We start the passage this week with one of my favorite sayings “Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Cor. 8:1)” The translation is very accurate, playing off the understanding that knowledge has the ability to create arrogance. Its concern really being that because we have a lock on knowledge, in this case the proper dietary laws, we think we are right, creating the arrogance.
This, of course, is pointing to Paul’s theology and calling for us to live in love, and that will all come later in the month. But for now, as we think to the service this Sunday, my challenge for you is to think about the last five arguments that you have been in and ask three questions: First, what were they over? Second, why were they so important, and Third, was there love to be found in them and where? I think if you spend some time thinking about this you will hear a very interesting response this Sunday.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen