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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, October 14, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Corinthians 10:23–34                  

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience, for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I mean the other’s conscience, not your own. For why should my liberty be subject to the judgment of someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why should I be denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved. (NRSV)

Why was there so much attention to food in the Bible? And why did the Apostle Paul go into so much detail with the church at Corinth about where, when, what, and with whom they could eat? The issues here are limits and freedom through Christ. The discussion arises as early Christians are challenged to integrate the practices of very different communities—Jews and Gentiles—who find themselves in the crosshairs between inherited practices and their new tradition, Christianity. In this passage, it all comes down to food.

I recall that as a university chaplain many of my students had restrictions on what they could and could not eat. For some it was digestive challenges. For others it was their religious practice, such as Jewish and Muslim students’ needs for kosher or halal. For others it was a social or political choice to be vegan or vegetarian or no meat except fish or to eat nothing with eyes. There were times when I found myself challenged by what I could serve to groups. Like Paul and the early Christian community there is a clear call to honor the needs of those who are part of the community. And there is also a declaration of freedom to eat without fear of harming oneself or those in the church. In my setting, though it was challenging, the knowledge that we attended to the specific dietary needs of our students brought amazing freedom and a deep sense of connection.

Our Christian faith works at so many levels—from the cosmic to the creaturely. We not only practice a faith that proclaims radical liberation through Jesus Christ in glorifying God, but also engages our daily practices to build up the community through attentive care. Relinquishing restrictions and supporting others’ needs by our actions exhibits radical freedom in Christ. All of this is done as an expression of our commitment to love one another with sacrifice and joy.

Great and holy God, may this day be a banquet of joy where all your children are fed with nourishing food and a feast of love to your glory! Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

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