Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
The Corinthian Christians must have found it a complete culture shock to worship just one God – as most of them were Gentiles, they would have been accustomed to worship many. So it’s no real surprise that some of them continued to worship other gods and attend temple activities.
Paul makes it clear that this is not possible.
By joining in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, by breaking the bread and sharing in the body of Christ, they are part of the one body of Christ.
By attending a temple, they were taking part in the worship of an idol, and becoming one with the other worshippers. Paul goes as far as to call them demon worshippers.
Just as Jesus had said that no one could serve two masters because we would love one and hate the other, (Matt 6:24), Paul explains that no one could sit at two tables – the table of the Lord and the table of demons. They had to choose who to follow, as do we today.
Who are the demons that we could be accused of worshipping today? We may not follow the gods of Canaan like the people of Israel in the Old Testament, or the gods of Greece and Rome as did many in Paul’s time, but there are plenty of idols vying for our attention today. Paul writing to the Colossians (Col 3:5) particularly picks out greed as being idolatry. Greed, the pursuit of self-interest above others, the desire for consumer goods, valuing human approval rather than God’s love – these are all ways in which we can become distracted from walking the way of Jesus today.
As we continue our journey along that way, let us heed the dangers of today’s idols, and choose to follow the one true master.
Help us Lord to follow you and walk in your way – not to be diverted onto other roads that may look superficially easier or more attractive. Keep us from the distraction of idols such as greed, wealth and self-interest, so that we serve you and spread the good news of your love for us. Amen.
The Rev’d Sue Cossey, NSM and Synod Pastoral Adviser, Bristol
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