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Idol Feasts and the Lord’s Supper August 23, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 10:14-22.

Summary: Paul begins by exhorting the Corinthians – given the preceding discussion – to avoid idolatry by fleeing from it. He notes that they are capable of understanding his argument in this regard; thus he allows them to decide for themselves how to respond. Now when the Corinthians celebrate communion and share the eucharistic cup for which they give thanks, they are sharing in the benefits of the blood of Christ; also, when they celebrate communion and break bread, they are sharing in the benefits of the broken body of Christ. Indeed, the concept of communion arises from the fact that all who participate in it share the same loaf of bread. Also, when the Jews offer their sacrifices, they partake in a portion of them and worship Jehovah – as their sacrifices are offered on His altar. Now Paul notes that given these facts, the Corinthians should neither infer that the heathen gods are divine nor conclude that the sacrifices offered to them are effective. He does assert that the heathen sacrifices are actually offered to evil spirits – and not to God; those who participate in idol feasts are brought into union with these evil spirits via their actions. In fact, the Corinthians cannot celebrate communion with the eucharistic cup and then drink from the cup that is passed between the guests at idol feasts; they cannot celebrate at the table at which the Lord presides and then eat at the table at which evil spirits preside. Paul concludes by stating that if the Corinthians persist in attending idol feasts, they must ensure that they are stronger than Christ, as these actions will provoke His fierce jealousy.

Thoughts: This passage reminded me of the time that I visited a shrine in a Taoist temple that my relatives in Macau had set up for my great-grandfather and great-grandmother. I recall my relatives burning some joss sticks at the temple; each of them then bowed three times before the pictures of my great-grandparents. They asked me to bow three times before the pictures of my great-grandparents, and I acquiesced in a desire to show respect to my great-grandparents. After reading this passage, I’m now convinced that my actions that day could be construed as idol worship. Even though I had noble intentions at that time, this passage makes it clear that my intentions are superseded by how others perceive my actions. In this case, the general view of my actions would probably be that I was engaging in ancestor worship. If I happen to find myself in a similar situation in the future, I would adopt the following course of action:

  • before going to the temple, I would tell my relatives that as a Christian, I would not want to enter the temple – not out of a desire to insult my ancestors, but out of a desire to honor my God
  • if my relatives strongly insisted that I go to the temple, I would accompany them there, but I would try to honor my ancestors in my own way – probably via entertaining pleasant thoughts of them – instead of bowing before their pictures.

Under no circumstances would I go to the temple in the future and actually bow before the pictures of my ancestors. Of course, this is a thorny topic, especially for Asian believers, and I’m sure that my proposed approach is not the only way to honor God in this situation. Any thoughts on the issue of honoring one’s ancestors – as a Christian – are welcome.

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