A neighbor invited me to attend a play at her place of worship, a church with views about God and the Bible that are very different than mine. I immediately informed her that I was not interested in exploring any of the programming at her church. Had she asked me out to lunch, I certainly would have accepted. Had she invited me to go with her on a shopping trip, I would happily have gone along. Had she requested my presence at her Young Living essential oils party, I definitely would have reserved my place. But to accompany her to her church? No!
I feel quite certain I could attend a dramatic production or other programs at my neighbor’s church (or any church that strongly differs from my spiritual beliefs, for that matter) without being swayed by some convincing wind. My faith is strong. However, I do not want to trouble a fellow Christian who could view this action as either support or indifference.
In 1 Corinthians, Saint Paul says that it is not a sin to dine with those outside of our fellowship, purchase items from them in the marketplace, or utilize their services. We are called to be kind and courteous to those who differ from us in spiritual beliefs and religious practices. We must, though, draw the line with attendance at houses of worship that pay homage to false prophets and gods.
If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 1 Corinthians 10:27-29
Here, Paul tells us that a Christian should not overtly sanction idolatry. Christians must not only consider their own freedom, but also the impact of their action on others. Therefore, it’s best to refuse invitations that support the worship of any other than the One True God. If a fellow Christian has a problem with you exercising your personal liberty, you should modify it. You might have no intention of giving permission to idol worship, but if another thinks that you do, you risk damaging their conscience. By your example, your brother or sister might be led to do the same thing, even though their conscience is bothered by it. You might be sure of your own conscience, but your fellow believer’s conscience may not be so strong.
But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? 1 Corinthians 8:9-10
Fast forward ten years…following my last move, I currently reside in a community where I am surrounded by a majority of people who do not share my Christian beliefs. I want to be a good neighbor to both my fellow believers and others who do not subscribe to the tenets of my Christian faith. Thanks to Paul, I know what to do to look after both groups.
Someone who does not practice the doctrines of your Christian faith might invite you to a party at their home or a program at their church this Christmas. I hope these verses will help you know how to respond in each of these situations.