It’s been several years now, but I remember being at a big party (ironically hosted by a Christian couple). It was a friends and family event with extended family and acquaintances coming from all over the state. It was a really great afternoon with people playing basketball, cards, cooking a hog on a huge roaster and chit chatting the beautiful spring afternoon away.
Some time during the afternoon someone brought out a cooler full of ice cold beer. I saw it and my mouth started watering. I know that most people don’t like the taste of beer but I really do enjoy it. I don’t like beer just because you can get drunk off of it, I genuinely love the taste of beer. One of my favorite pizzas had a beer battered crust.
Anyway, it didn’t take me but a couple minutes to go over and grab a beer. I popped the cap off of the top and took a big drink when someone I knew walks up to me and says “You know it offends me to see you drinking that beer?” I looked at them and scrunched my face up and ask them why. They said “Because you say you’re a Christian and I don’t think Christians should be drinking beer. The bible says that if you are doing something that I find offensive you need to stop. So please put the beer down.”
So I put the beer down on the table and he began to turn away with a look of satisfaction on his face and I stopped him. I said “Do you remember all of the passage from the bible that speaks about stopping something offensive to you?” He shook his head no and I continued. “The passage you quoted said that when I am exercising my rights, and my knowledge offends you that I am to quit, but it also says that the reason I am to quit is because you are weak minded. It calls you the weaker brother. So what I want for you to do is to look me in the eyes and admit to me that you’re a weak minded man and I am the stronger brother.” He didn’t say a word and he turned around and walked away.
That was a little catty on my part and a little aggressive but I didn’t want to let this person walk away thinking that what they did was good. It is not the right of the weaker brother or sister to demand that you change your behavior because of their own weakness. If I do something and God does not convict me of it, but He convicts you; You have no right to demand that I stop on your account. Here’s a novel idea; How about you try to overcome your weakness and grow into a strong minded person? So many weak Christians put shackles on other Christians because they are weak minded. Sounds harsh, right? Well, I didn’t call them weak just because I was angry. I called him weak because that’s what the bible calls them.
“But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.” 1 Corinthians 8:7
But something I have noticed is that a lot of times if I tell one of my older children not to pick on the younger one because the younger one is weaker, often times the younger one will taunt the older one. They take it as an opportunity to bug the older child and they get a great deal of satisfaction out of it. I have a duty as a parent to correct the younger child and let them know that their taunting of their older, or stronger sibling will stop or they will be punished. There has to be a mutual looking out for each other. I can’t just protect one and let the other be prodded. But ultimately we have to take care of the weaker one. I do have a responsibility to do what is right. I do have a duty to abstain from things that would cause people to stumble.
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” 1 Corinthians 9-13
But just as much as there is a responsibility for me to look out for the weaker brother there is a responsibility for the weaker brother not to take advantage of the stronger brother and attempt to put him in shackles as though he were a slave. I see the evil in trying to exert power over another just because the opportunity presented itself. Certainly there are cases where you have a weakness and you ask someone to refrain from something because you just can’t bare it. But a weak person should not make demands or give orders to the stronger person. Weak people make requests.
In any association whether it is a parent-child relationship, employer-employee relationship, government-citizen relationship you will see that the position of strength doesn’t take demands from the weaker position. The stronger one in the association takes requests. Whether they act upon the requests is not the point. The point is that when you look at a scripture like 1 Corinthians 8 and you see that Paul gives a command to try to look out for the weaker brother and you actually try to use it to harm the stronger brother, then you have done something evil. Paul held the stronger brother responsible, but who will hold the weaker brother responsible? Do you, the man of weak conscience, think that you get a free pass from your actions?
Paul in those passages was discussing food that had been sacrificed to idols. But the principle can be spread across a wide variety of issues. Like I said, it is good and necessary to look out for the weaker brother. We are our brother’s keeper. But there has to be justice for all when someone abuses the exception scripture makes for them in order to try to enslave, shame and condemn others.