8:12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Whether we realize it or not we live in a very self-centered culture. Listen to advertising. The message is never a community focused one. It's almost always about the individual. You deserve better, you are worth it, you owe it to yourself, put yourself behind the wheel of a new truck today! The life of Jesus tells a very different story. He did not live for Himself. He did not use His gifts for His own advancement. He never used His superior knowledge to gloat or make others feel small. He had one consuming passion and that was to lift others higher.
A different spirit was riding up in Corinth in a subtle way. Those who were realizing that idols were a complete scam were becoming insensitive to those who didn't know it yet.
Rather than give them time and space to grow and figure it out, they were being selfish. It was an attitude of "I know better and I'm going to do what I want and I don't care how it affects you!"
Imagine being a new Christian and believing Jesus is the best God among many and you have chosen to serve Him only because He is the Creator of all. You are in the market shopping and you refuse to buy the food you used to buy there because you know it was offered to the lesser gods. As you are shopping you see one of your fellow believers buy and eat the food. You are confused. Why did he do that? Doesn't he know better? If he can why can't I? Someone needs to say something! Do something!
When you get an appropriate chance you speak to him. His response is almost rude. "Idols are meaningless so what difference does it make!??" Now you are hurt and even more confused. If idols are meaningless why is he eating food dedicated to them? He's betraying our Lord!
It's not hard to see how divisions started over that issue.
Notice Paul's simple solution: "I will never eat meat again if there is a chance it will make my brother stumble!" Paul's concern for his ill-informed fellow believer is greater than his right to do what he knows is perfectly fine to do.
A couple of years ago I sat at the feet of a preacher significantly younger than I but wiser. He was speaking about the challenges associated with pastoring multicultural churches. He had gone as a student missionary for a year to a different country and culture. Right away he figured out they had a different relationship with time. He would schedule an event or a meeting for a specific time and when the time came people would begin coming. Half an hour or more later people were still arriving. The strange part to him was that everyone refused to begin until everyone else had arrived. He couldn't understand. If the start time is 7 you start at 7. Finally he expressed his frustration. This of course was new and strange to them and they explained that you never start until everyone has arrived. It is an insult to the whole community to not wait until everyone is present.
Now whether you agree with that cultural norm is not the point. The point was that in that culture the community was more important than the individual. Our culture is the opposite. When the Kyoto summit was held many years ago most countries agreed to change their practices for the good of the global impact on the environment. The United States refused to sign off on it. George W. Bush declared "The American lifestyle is not on trial." In more blunt terms "We are going to live as we please no matter the impact it may have on you."
Love is self-sacrificing. Love considers others above self. If my behaviour will hurt you I will change even though I know I wasn't technically doing anything wrong.
It wasn't a matter of meat and idols. It was a matter of caring about the impact our choices have on those around us.