The background: In ancient cities almost all meat didn't come from a secular butcher - it came from temples where animals were sacrificed to various gods. Only a small amount was actually burned or eaten in the temples, and most of it made its way into the market. This meant that eating meat had all kinds of religious complications: should you eat food that was sacrificed to false gods? Wealthier Christians (of whom there were only a handful in Corinth) were the ones most affected, since the average person only could only afford to eat meat a few times a year (usually when it was given away free at civic festivals).
But it also affected common people because virtually all local associations (craft guilds, fraternities, burial clubs) had special meals in temples. To be a full part of your local community and get the benefit of being part of these groups you had to go to these meals. In fact one of the most common criticisms of early Christians by pagans was that they were anti-social and hated other people because they didn't take part in a lot of the public life of their towns and cities.
With all of this in mind let's now turn to what Paul has to say.
- Read 1 Cor. 8:1-3. Are there times when we are concerned more with knowing things about God and the Christian life than loving God and loving others?
- Read 1 Cor. 8:4-6. What do you think Paul means he says both that no other gods exist and that there are “many gods and many lords”? What gods or lords might he be talking about in his time? What gods and lords would Paul see in ours?
- Read 1 Cor. 8:7-13. Are there times when we should limit our freedom for the sake of others? What activities or behaviours that are harmless to us might we consider avoiding for the sake of others?