1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.[a] 1 Cor 8
Paul uses a controversy about food sacrificed to idols to present a more fundamental teaching about knowledge and love. Human knowledge is obviously important and comes from the Divine. It is to be desired, sought after, and used for the benefit of the community. The problem is that left to its own devices knowledge tends to lead to pride--"I learned this. I know this and therefore am better than those who do not."--Those who are in relationship to the Divine--a relationship animated by love--have knowledge that does not puff them up with pride but which opens them to a gracious and graceful relationship to all that has proceeded from the Divine Creator. This is the only knowledge worth having.
Paul uses this controversy to make his point. There is no problem eating food that had been sacrificed to idols although later in this letter he makes clear that actual participation in the religious sacrifice at the pagan altar is not acceptable. But even though I might have knowledge that renders this practice benign, my loving relationship with a community will trump that insight. If my engaging in that practice will cause others who are less knowledgeable to become confused about the morality of that, I am called to let my concern with the community trump that knowledge.
Whatever knowledge or skill I have is pure gift and thus is fundamentally communitarian in its orientation and proper use. As Paul constantly stresses, we are the Body of Christ, called to a new life of the Divine Love. This is not some abstract piece of knowledge but a new life, an fundamental transformation at the level of our very being. We are called to express that new reality in our relationships with others and with all creation.
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