Respecting A Brother’s Conscience

When I love my brethren as Christ loved me, I will not do anything that might cause them to stumble and be lost.  To accomplish this we must have true love for our brethren, forbearance, longsuffering, and patience developed in our lives.  Though it is difficult, I may have to refrain from doing something that I know is not condemned in the presence of a brother who, because he does not have knowledge, would be offended.

Consider the issue of eating meat offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.  The issue was not whether it was right to eat meat offered to idols or not; eating meat was not condemned.  The real issue was that if I have a brother in Christ who does think it is wrong to eat meat offered to idols and I, knowing this, eat meat that is offered to idols (since I know that it is not condemned), that I may encourage my brother to eat in violation of his conscience.  I have used my liberty to cause my brother to stumble.

It is not wrong for me to eat meat that has been offered to idols, but my brother who does not have this knowledge, if he eats, will be condemned because he has violated what he believes to be commanded by God.  I must not put my brethren into that situation.  Note the strong language of Paul in verse 12:  “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”  When doing something that is not wrong, but doing it in the wrong circumstance, I sin against my brethren and Christ.  My brother and I may be lost through my knowledge!

Paul’s solution to the problem is if an action will cause my weak brother to stumble, I will not do it.  My brother’s conscience is more important than food or anything else that would make him stumble.  This sacrifice is a practical application of bearing with one another.

Loving As Christ Loved

The love of Christ that Christians should have is well described in Colossians 3:12-17. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved” Therefore connects the previous verses: you have put on the new man and put off the old man, you were raised with Christ, and you are setting your mind on things above.  You are the chosen of God (elect) according to your response to His calling through the word of the gospel, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.  You are holy (sanctified) as God is holy, 1 Peter 1:15-16, and loved by the Father.

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”  The peace of God is to “umpire” our hearts and direct our lives.  When we have peace with God, it is easier to have peace with our brethren, especially those who require more longsuffering.  We are unified in one body when we all are ruled by the peace of God and seek the things which make for peace, Romans 14:19.

An example of seeking peace is in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11.  I should not take my brother who has wronged me to court, but rather accept the wrong rather than disgrace the name of the Savior and the church before the world.  Sometimes we have to “accept the wrong” to make for peace.  It is not wrong to confront a brother for an expense resulting from his negligence, but if he will not hear you, or the church, it is better to accept the wrong and let the great Judge, our God, administer justice.

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