9 But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. - 1 Cor. 8:9 NLT
Paul continues his narrative on whether or not we, as Christians, are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols. The point he is making is that when we exercise our liberty in Christ Jesus, we need to be sure that others are not offended or misled by watching us. Though we have the knowledge that we have liberty because Jesus Christ died to set us free from the law and from sin, others do not have that knowledge. They are accustomed to not eating meat sacrificed to idols because that is what the law has taught them. Just as some of the disciples still taught that you had to be circumcised because they did not yet have the understanding of their freedom in Christ. We, being the stronger, should then give up our freedom to do certain things. Not because the action itself is a sin, but because it causes our brother or sister to stumble and we have sinned against them. Any sin against anyone is a sin against Christ. So we should use our knowledge, spoken in love, to edify our brothers and sisters and not to harm them.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?—1 Cor. 10:27-30 NIV
Jesus set the example of eating with sinners and he expects us to do the same. We are free to eat whatever is served to us. In those days, it was very possible that a person could have been offered something that was prepared as a sacrifice to an idol. If they were informed of that, then they should not partake of that food, not because it is a sin for them, but for the sake of the other person. Why? Paul is using the eating of meat that has been sacrificed to idols to show us an example of how we should be willing to give up certain rights rather than offend or harm another person. We are not judged by what goes into our mouth but by what comes out of it.
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”–Matt. 15:10,11 NIV
If we profess one thing and do another, we not only harm the Kingdom of God and ourselves, we also become a stumbling block to unbelievers and weaker brothers and sisters. If we know something offends another person even though it would not be a sin for us to take that action, then we should abstain from doing so in their presence. The only exception would be that if, in so doing, we had to violate our own conscience, then that is a line we cannot cross.
8 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge [a]makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. 4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that [b]there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.—1 Cor. 8:1-6 NASB
We all possess knowledge, some less, some more. Knowledge can be defined as facts, information, skills or awareness of a situation. Knowledge is neither good nor evil in and of itself. We determine whether it is good or evil by the way we use it. It can be evil if we allow our knowledge to cause us to be prideful. We can have an abundance of knowledge and yet be misled because we have not asked for wisdom to apply that knowledge to our daily lives. In this case, knowledge of the law said they should not eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. We know there is only one true God, so sacrificing to idols is sacrificing to “nothing”. Use your liberty in Christ Jesus to eat or not eat the meat unless the eating of the meat causes a brother or sister to be offended. If you can eat it with a clear conscience and give God the glory because all things come from Him and through Him we live, then eat.
21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.—Romans 14:23 NIV