Should we read books like Harry Potter, with its references to witchcraft, magic and the “Dark Lord”? How about watching mainstream movies, knowing the common themes are ones such as sex and violence, knowing love is often portrayed in a way that is inconsistent with what the Bible says about love? Should Christians buy novels from Christian bookstores only? How about religious and non-religious art? Pop music? Can we sing these songs at karaoke? Is dancing sinful? Should Christians drink alcohol at all? Visit a bar, club or attend a party? Can Christians date? What is, and isn’t appropriate to do on a date?
Hymns or contemporary tunes? Do we have to raise up our arms during song worship? Is it okay to open our eyes during prayer? Is it more “correct” to attend church on Saturday rather than Sunday, given the Old Testament Sabbath was on a Saturday? Why do denominations differ on how baptism should be performed? Can we visit temples and mosques? What if it is part of our guided tour on a holiday? For a truly meat issue that I came across recently – can Christians eat Halal meat given a prayer has been made to Allah beforehand? How about when you’re invited to a feast at Chinese New Year, knowing the plates have been offered to Taoist gods beforehand?
None of these examples are hypothetical! Over the years, many of these questions have come up in discussion, mainly with other Christians. I refer to these as “meat issues” given in the New Testament, key passages about disputable matters specifically addresses the issue of meat which is offered to idols. The answers to the above questions would vary greatly between churches, and even amongst individuals of a particular church. You could even contend that what I’ve listed as disputable, is disputable at all. How do we approach questions about daily living or contemporary issues that are not explicitly stated in the Bible? Why do Christians disagree on these matters? If we do disagree, how are we to do so biblically? The passages I’ll be mainly looking at are: Romans chapter 14, 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 and 1 Corinthians 1:14-33.
As a background to Romans, the letter was addressed to both Jews and Gentiles, the grafted and natural branches of the olive tree Paul describes earlier in the book. Given the prevalence of pagan worship, meat sold in the marketplace may have been sacrificed to idols prior. The issue amongst the believers was whether this was okay to eat. Perhaps it was the Gentiles who had previously been involved in idol worship who objected to this meat. Perhaps Jews too, having had strict traditions of clean and unclean foods, considered this meat unclean.
To be continued. This is getting rather lengthy for one reading…!