There was a real question in Paul’s mind about the degree to which a Christian could follow the cultural norm. That by itself is a point some Christians in this world need to bear in mind. If we think we can be an everyday Christian and an everyday American or Canadian or Filipino or Saudi Arabian, we are kidding ourselves. Nonetheless, there were still many details to work out about this point, and the Corinthians were slowly sorting through the details with Paul’s help.
Paul gives a foundational principle for ethics in this chapter, though:
So, then, whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything to God’s glory. (10:31)
As a Christian sorts out how to live everyday life, there is a guiding principle that is more important that was is lawful (c.f., 10:23), more important that what is right or wrong, more important that what one has the right to do, more important that even our own preferences and desires. Before asking what we want to do, we need to ask whether something brings glory to God. Does this make God look good? Does this draw people closer to God or further away?
The Corinthians needed to bear that in mind as they determined what kinds of food to eat, and when and where to eat it. They need to remember this when they lived in community with each other and influenced the behavior of their brothers and sisters. They needed to remember this as they decided how to interact socially in church and how to view the worth and acceptance of others. Does this bring glory to God?