A car is just a hunk of metal unless someone gets behind the wheel and drives it. Our actions are like that car, nothing happens unless there is a driver. Some motivating factor that starts our engine and steers us towards a goal or desire. That motivating factor could be honorable or ugly, it could be from pain or hope, might be from an offense or from love. What we say and do, how we react and respond, reveals our drivers.
Paul wrote, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31–33, NLT)
Folks in the Corinthian church were divided over the question of whether it was Christian to eat food sacrificed to the pagan idols of the city. In our modern era that seems petty, but I wonder what history will think about some of the squabbles we divide over. While the central conflict of what to eat may not be in play today, Paul’s principles still apply.
The verses above are the summation to Paul’s instruction. Prior to them, in verses 10:1-30, he appeals to unity, personal conscience, wisdom, building up one another, and considering the conscience of others. He doesn’t fall into either camp of the conflict but weaves a pathway between them before revealing his own drivers.
In the verses above Paul declares that his actions are driven by a desire to glorify God and for others to experience the life-changing love of God. These drivers force us to look up and out. They call us to consider God’s glory and what is best for others instead of our own likes, desires, passions, wounds, and felt injustice. Paul didn’t give the Corinthians a black and white one size fits all answer to the conflict but one filled with color and love.
But here we must also speak to our current culture. Folks are often driven by the waves of Social Media to take sides in perceived injustice. It’s like everyone else is the victim and it’s up to us to fix them. Through this lens, the world is seen as hunter and prey, victim and victimizer, offended and privileged. But is it really that simple? No, it’s not. There’s always more complexity than the surface story reveals.
In Paul’s day the contention was over food sacrificed to demonic idols, in our day it could be any of a dozen issues. The answers are still the same – What glorifies God? What is best for others? What opens a doorway for others to choose Christ? It may mean sacrifice, offering unearned acceptance, or even speaking a difficult truth. We may even need to put aside (with the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit) our conscience for the sake of another’s or perhaps draw the hard line of no.
The bottom line is this. If we try to live a black and white Christianity where something is always wrong and something else is always right we will be frustrated or offensive. Yes, I know that speaking the Gospel is offensive to some. But remember, Paul said to not give offense to the Jews, the Gentiles (meaning everyone else), or the others that belong to Christ. That means everyone. So, instead, find the color of being driven by a thirst for glorying God, a hunger for what is best for others, and the fulfillment of encouraging others to walk with Jesus. Let’s allow these drivers to empower all that we, as Christ followers, do and say.