“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:9-12 NIV84)
Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden was to allow their orientation to turn inward. They were created to love God with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love each other as themselves. They were created other-oriented because they were created in the image of God, and God is other-oriented. His love is always oriented toward us. He loves us unilaterally and unconditionally. But in the garden of Eden love’s orientation turned inward. For Adam and Eve, what was important to them on that day was themselves. Their orientation turned inward. They saw that the forbidden fruit looked good to eat and would make them wise, so they ate. And they lost everything. From that point on man would, in his self-oriented state, hide from God and accuse Him and everyone around him for the wrongs in his life.
But we have been redeemed and have been born anew. We are new creatures in Christ. Our old self-oriented nature has been crucified with Christ. We have been born of the Spirit of God. We are new creatures. We have the capacity to daily die to the old man and rise to the new. We once again have the ability to be other-oriented. Paul is telling us in our verses for today that we must be other-oriented even in the area of our Christian freedom. We must always focus on those around us, and not just on what we are free to do. Paul is telling us that it would be better for us to sacrifice our freedom for the sake of another than to let our freedom offend and confuse the heart and conscience of another Christian.
In general, let’s be more other-oriented as we live out our Christian lives here on Earth.