"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Why I Follow Jesus & Still Eat Pork

Several days ago someone left a thought-provoking comment which inspired me to answer the question of why as someone who tries to follow Jesus, I don't eat according to the dietary rules of the Old Testament. After all Jesus as a Jewish rabbi would have followed the Law. Why do some of us claim he "purified all food"? Why do we insist that pork and shellfish are all right for us to eat when it wasn't "all right" for, say, Peter, James, Isaiah, Amos and John the Baptist?

First I must say that there are some people out there who do believe we should stick with the Mosaic Law and not consume "unclean" foods. A quick Google search will lead you to people with that point of view, and I respect them. If they feel God wants them to eat kosher then they should!

But for those like me, I will attempt to explain our reasons for not following the dietary rules given to Moses. I don't want anyone to assume it was just pure rebellion or a lackadaisical attitude on our parts.

1. I am not a Jew. Although it's true that we Christians tend to have a soft spot for the Ten Commandments and will often fight for its inclusion in our courthouse buildings when the ACLU tries to get rid of them, God actually gave the Law to Moses for the children of Israel.

For God's own reasons and not because of Abraham's, Isaac's, or Jacob's innate goodness, God chose this line to bring forth the Messiah, Jesus. God wanted His people to be set apart from the surrounding nations. The Israelites often failed miserably, worshiped idols, mistreated the poor, acted unjustly to other nations and broke the Law, but God sent prophets to warn them to turn back to Him. When they did, He restored them. When they refused, He punished them like any good parent would do.

Israel was to be different thus God gave them explicit rules to follow. The Law showed them how to live and also showed them they were not perfect enough to keep all the rules. It proved they needed a Savior, but that's a whole other topic. :)

From Exodus 19:

Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."

And Isaiah 49:

3 He said to me, "You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor."...

6 I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

2. Food doesn't make us 'unclean.' In Matthew 15 Jesus was asked why his disciples did not wash their hands before eating. After all this was breaking with tradition of the elders. Jesus replied,

11What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "

17"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' "

One might argue that Jesus was talking about unclean hands rather than food, however I believe the spirit of this teaching is that food and unwashed hands aren't what defile a person. Shrimp and bacon go in the mouth and out later as waste. The thoughts that come from within are what defile a person.

3. God purified all food. Peter was a good Jewish man. In fact when he received his vision, he was stunned and argued with God insisting there was nooooooo way he would ever eat something unclean!

Acts 10

9About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

14"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."

15The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."

4. We are under a New Covenant. Many people believe Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly and did away with our need for keeping it when he died and rose from the dead. He gave us the New Covenant so we are no longer bound by the Old Law in order to acquire salvation. The New Covenant is written upon our hearts and we have power to live this way through the indwelling Holy Spirit as we follow Jesus.

There are likely other reasons that people have, but these are the main ones for me. Another good passage to check out is Romans 14 which deals with people who argue over which days are special, which holidays to celebrate, which foods and drinks are acceptable. I love the freedom we have in Christ! Not that we are free to do evil, but we are free from the bondage of sin and enabled to do good through his wonderful power! How many of us can love our enemies by our own strength?



Wafa said...

interesting, i enjoyed reading the post.

Joni said...

Well thought out post Susie! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Well Hello Beautiful! Long time no talk lol
I've been a little busy these days and dying to get to my blog, but it will have to wait.
However, I DID have to sit for a moment before I head out again to read this because I am always interested in the different points of view concerning this subject. I remember a while back seeing a Joel Osteen sermon where he was saying that is was not lawful and he didn't eat it...I found that very interesting but a lot of people feel as you do. I guess it's what you interpret and get from the scripture. Each to his own sort of thing.
I never did like pork-my whole life-and my ex was on a strict heart healthy diet while we were together so it's not an issue for me or my kids.
I enjoyed reading some of the scriptures you used to validate your reasons. Especially Matthew 19 & 29. Very very good!

Wishing you a lovely day..or whats left of it.
As always, I send my best.
Hugs :)

Unknown said...

Yes, as a catholic I knew this. Now that I am Muslim I don't eat the pork. One of my childhood friends, her mom died from eating undercooked pork. She got worms in her brain.. It's called, Trichinosis. Sad. I think I'll end up making a post on this.

Unknown said...

The food laws are odd. Or rather, my attachment to them is. I've said before that I recently left Messianic Judaism, for the most part I'm not all that concerned with the law code, and I definitely don't think it's required. But I still won't eat pork. I don't know why. I've wondered about it a lot, and I have a partial justification in the health concern, like the commenter above me shared, but that's not the real reason. There is no real reason. I just got in the habit of not eating pork and now starting seems weird, I guess. :D

Anyway. Cool post, your reasoning makes sense. Thanks for sharing!

Carmen said...

I was going to share Romans 14 and then you finally got to it. ;P hahaha!

Many meats, improperly cooked can make us sick, not just pork.

I think your post is well written and excellently explained. However, I have a Christian friend who does not eat pork and I don't think any less or more of them for that decision. It's a personal one.

Suroor said...

Thanks for this post, Susanne. I knew about Jesus cleaning all foods but the references are great!

Susanne said...

Wafa', thank you for taking time to read it.

Joni, thanks!

Shell,yeah, I thought Joel Osteen or some big-named guy like him didn't eat pork. I can take it or leave it. I don't avoid it like the plague, but I don't eat it all the time either. I much prefer carbs to meats. :) If I were following Jewish dietary law, shrimp and lobster and tuna would be out as well.

Thanks for your sweet comments. You always make me smile. :)

Susanne said...

Texan, I'm sorry about your friend's mom. Definitely you should cook pork well! Most meats for that matter.

Sanil, that's how I am with soft drinks. I got out of the habit years ago and never went back. Wish I could do the same with ice cream. :)

Good to read a comment from you! Been a while, but I know school keeps you busy!

Carmen, I agree...it's a personal decision. I like that we can make decisions on some of these types of issues. Some choose to eat pork, others don't. Some choose to drink alcohol in moderation, others don't. I like freedom! :-P

Suroor, I did this post especially for some sweet lady I know. :)

Thanks everyone for your comments. I enjoyed them!

Suroor said...

I wanted to tell you something. I don't eat camel meat (I think you know that from my post) and have never eaten it although it is halal. But a while ago I theorised in my head that if Jesus was a rabbi then he would have never eaten camel meat because it is not allowed to Jews and as a follower of Jesus, I wouldn't eat it either. It wasn't about it being unclean or prohibited in the OT. It had nothing to do with religion or faith, but just love.

After this post I'm thinking maybe he did eat all types of meat because he considered it clean which is fine, but if I love him would I eat camel meat because I think maybe he ate it or would I still not eat it because maybe he allowed it to everyone but didn't eat it himself.

That is what I have been thinking since last night.

Thank you so much for this post, S! You ROCK!

Susanne said...

Suroor, you are so cute. :) You really inspire me so much, and I appreciate you making me think. I did this post especially because of something you asked. I like that you make me reason why I believe as I do.

As for eating camel meat, that's your call. I think God would appreciate your enjoying something He created. This is where I often think of Romans 14 where Paul discussed such things -- God accepts the one who eats meat and the one who refrains so WE should not judge. I like that view. If GOD accepts someone who am I to judge whether she is eating kosher, eating halal or simply eating? :)

Thanks for your follow-up comment! It made me smile. :)

Suroor said...

Yes, that is exactly how it is in Islam as well, if God has made something halal you eat it. But I think it is my Muslim upbringing, like I was taught that even if something is allowed but the Prophet didn't do it, try not to do it if you love the Prophet. Or like if he loved something like honey you MUST have it.I'm severely allergic to honey and I mentioned it to the cousin (the one who segregated us) and she said that there is a hadith that if honey makes you sick then it is your stomach that lies because honey can never lie!!!

I guess that is what I brought into my love for Jesus. Camel meat is allowed, he allowed it but if he didn't have it, I will voluntarily shun it. Shellfish is a lot harder, though :D

I gave up chocolates for Lent and God knows how difficult that was; Lent is a lot harder than Ramadan!

Susanne said...

Suroor, I am laughing at the thought of your lying stomach! :)

Why do you think fasting during Lent is harder than Ramadan? I have a theory, but I'd like to know your reason for saying that.

Suroor said...

Lent is harder because 1) it is a lot longer 2) you willfully leave only your most cherished and enjoyable thing/food/habit for so many days. In Ramadan you just don't eat or drink for 12-15 hours but you know that you won't sleep hungry or thirsty. But now as Lent approaches its end, I'm actually off chocolates. I don't think I can choco-binge anymore like before.

Susanne said...

Yes, that's why I guessed Lent was harder. Thanks for replying. :)

NidalM said...

The argument of certain meats being 'unclean' no longer makes sense in modern times. It is true that a few centuries ago, due to lack of refrigerants, preservatives and rearing standards, pork, shellfish and some other types of meant may have been very susceptible to disease.

However, in modern times, pork is probably one of the cleanest types of meat available in North America. Cases of Trichinosis are down to 12 a year in the US (warning: MUCH higher in developing countries) and even those are limited to home reared pigs or incorrect cooking.

To Muslims, the only reason to not eat pork in modern times is simply "Because God said so".

Susanne said...

Great comment, Nidal! Thanks :)

caraboska said...

Susanne, I believe tuna have both scales and fins, so that in principle they ought to be kosher. Shark, however, is another matter entirely...

Susanne said...

Thanks for the clarification, Caraboska!

rw80687 said...

Hallo dear.
Interesting picture about the unclean food.
From where do you have it?
Is it from a book?
If yes - which one?