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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Knowledge, a Noisy Gong

1 Corinthians 8
Vs. 6-7: “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. However not all men have this knowledge…”
Paul is confronting the Corinthian Christians about their disunity again. This time it seems the disunity arose because the Corinthians consider themselves more knowledgeable and wiser than they do other people. Paul has dealt with them about this issue before. The example Paul speaks to them about is the act of eating food offered to idols. Is it head knowledge that should lead when we interact with people or heart knowledge?
Knowledge, solely as knowledge for knowledge sake is worth nothing. Knowledge without the acknowledgement that all knowledge comes from God makes one boastful and proud, arrogant. This knowledge does nothing for others except possibly put others down, beneath one’s feet in the knowledge holders mind, actions, and attitude. Knowledge acknowledged as being from God carries with it the love by which God imparts/shares the knowledge. This is true knowledge, that which shares not only the head knowledge/information, but shares the love from which it was derived, for the purpose of sustaining and improving life and for showing God’s love and care of humanity. Knowledge without this love is, as Paul later says, “a noisy gong and a clanging symbol” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
This passage appears to be about food offered to idols, and for the moment in which Paul is speaking to the Corinthians, this was an issue. The underlying lesson though is the acquisition of knowledge, the holding of knowledge, and the implementing of knowledge upon our fellow human so that they know they are not as knowledgeable or so that they are caused to falter in what they believe. The attitude in which this is done is not love or care for our fellow humans. God’s knowledge, as we saw in chapters 1-3 of 1 Corinthians is wiser than that of humans. His strength is stronger that humans. His power is stronger than humans are. He exercises all of these in means of love toward us because He created us to be in a love relationship with Him. Since true knowledge comes from God, to withhold the love, which was also a part of true knowledge, when applying knowledge corrupts the knowledge and drops the value of it to the levels of humanity. It makes it not as pure and useful as God intentioned. The attitude of the human who uses knowledge without love affects/corrupts its use so that it becomes a prideful thing that reduces the value of the other human(s) to which it was aimed.
Paul uses the situation of a follower of Christ eating meat that was offered to idols. For Christians, we know there are no other gods; therefore, the meat is uncorrupted. However, for a person who is either not a Christian or is a new or weak Christian, eating meat they considered sacred puts a wedge or stumbling block between you and them, and you as the Christian, lose credibility so that they will listen hesitantly and with ambivalence anything you may say about the true God. Your knowledge, though the head knowledge is correct, has lost its heart value and has become only as great as the person revealing the knowledge. The love that the knowledge was originally imbued with was not shared because the person eating the sacred meat did not care to concern themselves with the god-believing person’s culture and ideas of faith.
As believers in Jesus Christ who have received His love, forgiveness, and salvation, we cannot allow ourselves to run over people with our newfound freedom from the constraints Satan put upon us while we walked with the world. We must recognize continually that Jesus came to us in love and we must meet the people of the world with love. Jesus imparted the knowledge of God’s plan for salvation for humankind by words and by the extreme action, giving up His life to die for us. We cannot ignore nor negate this when we live in the world. That would mean we are not living as Jesus lived here on earth. We must at all times live our freedom in and through the love that comes from the Jesus' sacrificial living and dying for our salvation. You see, if God had only “known” how to save us and had not acted upon it, He would have shown Himself to be without love. We know this is not true of God. One of the strongest characteristics we see in God is His love. It is through this love that so many people throughout history have been drawn to God. Because of His love, which is His character, He created us. Because of His love, He had mercy upon humanity many times over the millenniums. Because of His love, He provided a final way for all of us to come into a perfect, sinless relationship with Him. This Way was through the life, death, and resurrection of His only Son, Jesus Christ. God did not divorce love from plan/knowledge. His plan was made because of His love.
With this example, when we divorce love from knowledge, we are saying that our plan is better that God’s plan. We are saying that we know best. The result is that we alienate ourselves from other people with our arrogance. We alienate others from God with our flawed wisdom. What did Paul say? “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21 NASB). It is only when love is the reason that knowledge has power. It is only when love is the motivator that knowledge is true knowledge and wisdom. Love was the reason God created us. Love was the reason that God made another plan for humankind to be in a relationship with Him. Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 1:27-30,
God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD. (NASB)
When we interact with others and when we impart our knowledge, we have a question to ask ourselves first; am I speaking to be heard and thought to be knowledgeable? If our motivation is to build ourselves up in the eyes of others, love of humankind is not our goal. We have put love of our ourselves higher than our love for God or others. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us what true love is.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous ; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly ; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth ; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (vs. 4-8a, 13 NASB)
If we truly as living as Christians, we should be living with a heart knowledge. It should be evident in the way we interact with people. Our heart and God’s heart should be one and be visible as we speak and act in this world. If love is not in our knowledge as we act and speak, we are sinning against and harming others. We are also hindering their belief in God by providing a “stumbling block” (chapter 8:9). When we sin against another human, we are sinning against Christ, too (vs. chapter 8:12). We each must come to the point where we consider if what we say or do is imparting the love of God along with knowledge. If we are not considering the other person’s being and place in this world, we are not interacting with them in love. We could cause them to stumble in their search for God or in their growth as a Christian. The old saying carries some truth; it is more important to see and hear a person in their situation, since we have two eyes and two ears, than to speak, since we have only one mouth. The question then is am I relating with others just to be seen as more knowledgeable or as one who loves them and wants to impart true knowledge and wisdom, which comes with love from God?