Christians may have heard of the problem of the "weaker" brother, but can sometimes misunderstand who that is. Paul, in 1st Corinthians 8, clarifies the relationship responsibilities of the strong Christian to the weak Christian:
- The words "strong" and "weak" in this chapter pertain to the beliefs held by a believer. For instance, "strong" believers know the gods do not exist; "weak" believers may not be entirely sure. (Paul will address the actual participating in pagan worship ceremonies later, in 1st Corinthians 11.)
- "Strong" believers know that food has no spiritual effect on your relationship with God. "Weak" believers still think that eating certain foods is a sin.
- The action under consideration (the strong believer eating meats dedicated to an idol) is not sinful. This is an important point. As far as God is concerned, the strong believer is doing a permissible thing. The situation is not that the weak believer is drawn back into idolatry.
- The weak brother's problem is that he or she participates in something that they still think is sinful. Not just that the weak brother looks on from afar and judges the strong believer. Rather, the weak believer actually does that which he or she still mistakenly thinks is wrong, and as a result he wounds his own soul and defiles his conscience.
Chapter 8 is different from when a weak believer judges another believer. Romans 14 speaks to that sort of person. It says to stop judging (14:13), and keep their convictions to yourself (v. 22). Chuck Swindoll once warned of the "professional weaker brother" -- the Christian who demands that everyone else comply with his personal hang-ups.
The main idea of 1st Corinthians 8 is that the good of our fellow Christian takes priority over the exercise of liberty. This doesn't mean that we give in to every Christian's personal opinions. There are some Christians who need to be kindly told, "Brother, you need to respect my liberty." This also doesn't relate to life in the congregation. Paul is addressing our conduct out in non-Christian society.
But, if I know that a fellow Christian is being tempted by my influence to engage in something they feel in their heart is wrong, then I should stop doing whatever it is that's influencing them.