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Meat, Masks, and Motivations

July 3, 2020

I can’t help but think there are some principles in Paul’s teachings about meat that some of us might be able to apply to our decisions about masks and social distancing.

In Paul’s day people in the church were debating about whether or not they should eat meat, because some of the meat might have come from sacrifices to idols. Paul told the Romans and the Corinthians that if they made those decisions based on what they wanted for themselves, theywere making a mistake. Instead, they should make decisions about eating meat based on what was best for others. “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.” (Rom. 14:15a)

Paul explained that meat was not really the issue. People who ate meat were not better or worse than those who didn’t eat it. “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” (1 Cor. 8:8) However, he did stress that people could exercise their freedom in a way that was sensitive to those who were more concerned about meat. “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Cor. 8:9)

Paul was basically telling the meat-eaters that while they had the freedom to eat meat, there might be good reasons for them to sacrifice for others and not do what they wanted to do. He encouraged his brothers and sisters in Christ to stay focused on what was really important, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17) He taught that the strength of the community was worth the effort. “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Rom. 14:19)

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