You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” The apostle Paul has an interesting take on that. He says, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you LOVE.” If we follow Christ, then love must trump knowledge.
The Corinthian Christians lived in a metropolis saturated with superstition and idolatry. (Superstition … really? … and I’m commenting on a chapter with 13 verses on Friday the 13th … hmmm.) On a regular basis, the offerings of meat that were brought to the pagan idols and altars found their way into the marketplace. What effect would the meat’s origins have on the consumer? Would buying it and eating it be a type of participation with the idols? If I practiced a different faith, would eating such meat be a sin; idolatry? Some Christians in Corinth answered that question, “Yes” and others, “No,” based on their knowledge of God and the gods.
Paul says his knowledge of the gods as ‘nothing at all’ renders the meat simply, meat. There is no advantage or disadvantage in eating or not eating it. In fact, he says that knowing the idols don’t exist and that the meat is not spiritually tainted is the stronger position. Those who still have scruples about the effects of idols have ‘a weak conscience.’ But here is where love trumps knowledge. I care about my brothers concern for holiness; I don’t want to be a source of stumbling for the sister that I love. Therefore, I will not exercise my freedom. I will not wound their conscience. I will install boundaries around my freedoms for the sake of others, because I love them.
Paul is right about lifeless idols, but rather than insist on being right, he would rather be ‘rightly related’ to his brethren. That’s always a good question for us to ask ourselves – “Do I want to be right, or rightly related?” Imagine if Jesus’ love didn’t trump His knowledge. He knows every sinful thing about me. If He acts solely on that knowledge, I get raw justice. But because He loves me, I get justified! Instead of doing what He knows to be right (condemning what is unholy), He rights the relationship I have with Him (makes me holy through the love of the Cross). Love trumps knowledge!
“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” How will you press your knowledge into the service of love today?
Pray: All-knowing God, thank you for not giving me what you knew my sins deserved. Thank you for loving me and for the personal sacrifice that love required. Help me to do as you have done. Help me make my knowledge a servant to unselfish love. Make me as sensitive to others’ needs for a clear conscience as I am to my own need to exercise freedom.