9“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?”
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
Momentary satisfaction of using liberty is not worth injuring a weak Christian’s conscience. A weak Christian has not grown in understanding the structure of Christian principles. A “stumbling block” is an occasion for stumbling. A stumbling block always results in a wound.
For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols?
Paul poses a problem regarding a weak Christian who, seeing a strong Christian dining at a pagan temple (probably the Temple of Aphrodite), is “emboldened” to join in the meal even though he has a conscience against it. The word “emboldened” means to build up, strengthen. The believer who has a firm grasp on his liberty but does not use that liberty with judgment may give the weaker believer boldness to do something against his conscience. We do not want weaker Christians to run the red light of their conscience.
Love limits liberty.
Two principles deal with doubtful things (norms not addressed in Scripture): (1) liberty and (2) love. There are times when liberty supersedes love, and there are other times when love supersedes liberty. Taboos can be the weapon of the weak to control the strong believer. Taboos are a false form of spirituality. Spirituality is a fellowship with God through the control of the Holy Spirit on our lives. If taboos are used as a weapon by legalistic Christians, then mature Christians should never sacrifice their liberty for a false belief. However, if the believer has a weak conscience and it is not an issue of legalism in principle, then love should limit liberty. Yet further, we should never settle on a weak conscience to take the place of an edification construct formed on the principles of the Word.
Edification takes precedence over knowledge, and love supersedes Christian liberty. The knowledge of sophomore Christians is defective, but so is the perspective of the mature Christian. Some believers who have a good grasp of Christian liberty say, “Well, I don’t care what anyone says; I’ll do as I please; I don’t care what anyone thinks – including people I may hurt – because I have liberty in Christ.” The weak Christian is overly scrupulous and hypersensitive about issues not addressed in Scripture– a condition Paul patently labels “weak” (8:8)? The mature Christian who understands his liberty must value something more – the edification of weaker Christian. Mature love focuses on the individual problems of weaker believers. Taking into consideration the weaker Christian’s weakness is more important than exercising our liberty. This does not compromise our liberty in Christ, but it is expediency for building up other believers. Are you willing to waive your rights for a weak Christian?