Coulda Shoulda

By Dane Neufeld

Reading from 1 Corinthians, 10:15-24

15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16The 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? 17Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 19What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. 21You 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. 22Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others.


Because today’s culture wars have taken such deep root within our churches (maybe they originated there), we have not been very good at applying these verses. The Christian is not “free” from every aspect of the law; some obvious prohibitions still apply. But for St. Paul, the building up of the body, the “advantage” of another, is to be the true light guiding our moral decisions.

Just because it is possible or permitted to do something (at least, in our view), does not mean we should flaunt it carelessly before our church community, or even that we should do it. This may seem like basic emotional or relational intelligence, but it is not how we have tended to engage each other on difficult matters within the Church. We tend to hurl ourselves at each other, declare our principles without compromise, draw our lines in the sand.

There is a time for that kind of thing, but it’s probably not as often as we think. Day to day Christian living, St. Paul seems to suggest, requires a certain amount of restraint and caution. We need to be attentive to the complexities of other people’s lives, we need to think about other’s challenges and considerations before our own, we need to prayerfully consider what the circumstances before us require. Of course, I could do this or that. But what is best for those around me? What will bring peace and comfort to my community? What will take me further from my own self-centered drives and ambitions?

Deciding what “builds up” and what is “beneficial” requires some discernment, but spiritual attention towards our own actions and words forms the heart of Christian living.

The Rev. Dane Neufeld currently serves as the incumbent of St. James, Calgary, after serving 7 years in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta.

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