Sermon Briefs: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
"How does one exercise faithful, appropriate stewardship when two gifts play off against each other?"1 This is the question posed by Mark Gravrock in a sermon on the text. The two gifts in opposition are the gift of freedom in Christ enjoyed by the believer, and the responsibility each believer carries for sisters and brothers in Christ.
In the Christian life, frequently my freedom runs counter to the needs of others, and the needs of others restrict my freedom. For Paul, this is an issue of knowledge (gnosis) versus love, a conflict he resolves by choosing people over personal liberty.
The diversity of response among Christians on contemporary social issues can be viewed through Paul's vision of the strong and the weak. For example, some Christians protest nuclear weapons, while other Christians build those same weapons, and understand them to be a Christian response to aggression and tyranny. Gravrock asks, "Which is the weak brother or sister, and which is the strong?"2
The dynamic of the conflict between gifts and the tension between the needs of the weak and the liberties of the strong is "an interplay of two goods, not two evils. Both Christian liberty and the presence of the brother or sister are marvelous gifts from a bountiful God."3 How then can we resolve those apparently irresolvable conflicts such as homosexuality and abortion, moral issues which divide Christians, pitting them in opposing camps? Gavrock concludes that it is only through open-eyed and openhearted conversation, tempered by prayer and forgiveness that faithful, moral choices can be made. As Luther wrote, "The Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none, and the Christian is a perfectly free dutiful servant of all, subject to all."
R. Charles Grant
1. Mark Gravrock, "The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany," in Stewardship Preaching, (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), pp. 14-16. 2. Ibid., p. 15. 3. Ibid., p. 16.