Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him.
Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.
O Lord, you search me and you know me,
you know my resting and my rising,
you discern my purpose from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down,
all my ways lie open to you. R./
For it was you who created my being,
knit me together in my mother's womb.
I thank you for the wonder of my being,
for the wonders of all your creation. R./
Already you knew my soul,
my body held no secret from you,
when I was being fashioned in secret
and moulded in the depths of the earth. (R./)
Jesus said, "I tell you, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged;do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
In advising the Corinthians Paul mixed idealism with practicality. Knowledge can puff us up into windbags. We can argue cleverly yet cause scandal. Some can be so fixated on theological correctness that lose contact with reality. Sincere dedication to Jesus will refine our sense of concern for people who are scrupulous. Using the example of meat slaughtered in temples and dedicated to pagan gods, Paul argues two sides of this issue. Because those "gods" are really "no-gods," a Christian believer can buy this (cheap?) meat for food. But if my neighbour can't see this distinction and thinks this meat blasphemous, then I run the risk of giving scandal to a neighbour for whom Christ died. I must think of the consequences of my actions, and not just seek my own convenience.
In this same spirit we should soberly re-read this Gospel in order to grasp Christ's expectations from us, like: "Bless those who curse you; Turn the other cheek; and Love your enemy." These are the supreme law of Christian life. In a way, Jesus is asking us to let our hearts be as large as God's own heart.
In Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount we find some of the most radical of all Jesus' teachings. At the heart of it is the call to love our enemies and to give to those who do not deserve our generosity and who will never be in a position to pay it back or to give something to us in return. In the culture of the time, people who were in a position to give generously expected some kind of return. Giving to others put them in debt to you; there was a cultural expectation of some kind of return. Perhaps our own culture is not all that different, because we are not all that different. We struggle to be completely selfless in our giving. Jesus cuts across that culture of giving with a view to receiving. The love he calls for which has no trace of self-seeking in it is a divine kind of love; it is the way God loves. God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked; God does not give with a view to receiving. God does not love his enemies less than his friends. Jesus is calling on us to be God-like in our loving and in our giving. The world would consider this kind of giving a folly; we will be left with nothing. Jesus, however, promises that if we give in this God-like way, a full measure, running over, will be poured into our lap. This morning, we are invited, in the words of the first reading, to let this message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with us.