Name a food you used to like, but now avoid – what changed?
The first one to come to mind is meat, obviously. Those, who know me, know that I gave up meat last year, and became vegetarian. What simply changed was some things I came across studying Judiasm: specifically, their approach to what we call a lifestyle of worship. We, in traditional Christian circles, throw that term around to mean anything, from praying before you eat, to having a prayer time every morning. In Jewish culture, however, it is something much more wholistic than that. It mean’s that we actively seek to offer worship to God in every possible place in our lives. Most of us know about the Jews’ “ridiculous” dietary restrictions. We usually look at how oppressive it must must be to think you have to live under the law, when God sent his son to complete the law, and free us. But I try (as is the subject of Novembers book) to find truth anywhere I can; asking myself what can I learn from this, besides the lies and the negativity. For me the Jewish laws regarding food, clothes, and so much more were more than just oppressive regulations. They show that it is really possible if you try (or care) to worship God in ANY AREA of your life! With the food you eat, the money you spend, the clothes you where, time you spend, and so on.
I am not, by any means, trying to say that everyone should restrict their diets to try to please God. All I am trying to convey about my choice is that I see it as an OPPORTUNITY God has blessed me with to honor Him. So, I am taking Him up on it.
There is one other aspect of the vegetarian lifestyle, that drew me to it as a possibility for worship. It was that Jesus often encouraged us to live like foreigners, while we are alive on this planet. He said to conduct ourselves as citizens of heaven living in a foreign land. Think about that for a minute. We know that heaven, or the new earth, the kingdom of God, or whatever you want to call the end of it all will be a lot like the beginning. In genesis, we read of a perfect place, where corruption and sin had yet to get their grip on the world. In this place, this garden, there was no blood shed, no killing. Actually, the first physical death of any kind happens after sin enter the world. So, I would think that when sin is gone, the new world will be more like that. What will we eat when bloodshed isn’t a way of life anymore? I know that Paul, in Romans chapter 14, said that the kingdom of God isn’t just about the food we eat. But I can’t help but imagine that it will most likely be like be more like this: “Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. (Genesis 1:29 NLT)” Yum!
My biggest worry about this topic (Thanks WordPress) is the same as anytime I am asked about why I am vegetarian: that my reasoning would come across as pushy, haughty, or as though I am trying to convince you that eating meat is morally wrong for you to do. The key words there are “for you”. I want to make it this clear. Do I think think about the fact that Christ was the ultimate and final bloodshed to pay my debt of sin, resulting in no more need to have any bloodshed in my life, whenever I turn away from a steak or a chicken wing? Yes. Does having a plate of deliciously prepared foods void of meat, cause me to imagine a new heaven and earth where the lion lays down with the lamb and the end of violence and the death of death? Yes. Do I think you should take on my burden and forsake meat eating too? not at all! This is my yoke. That doesn’t make it yours. Paul said,
“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. (Romans 14:1-3 NLT)”
It would be more than wrong for me to throw a burden on another believer’s shoulders that God did not put there. Jesus said it would be better for me to be thrown into a river with a boulder around my neck, than to do that. Just like most of this life, it’s all about the relationship. Me and God. It takes twists and turns. It’s a little different for everyone. But He knows what each of us needs. He knows what disciplines you need to grow closer to Him. Discipleship takes different training, I think, depending on the disciple, I think. Some of us need to touch the scars in our messiah’s hands. Some of us need to walk on water… And sink a bit. So, I don’t claim, by any means, that the yoke I’ve accepted is for everyone.
If you read the rest of Romans 14, you would know there are a lot of things he says about not causing those with dietary restrictions to stumble by eating or drinking in front of them. To be clear on this too, because many have asked, I do not get offended in the least by someone sitting in front of me eating a slab of ribeye with a side of bacon and chicken fingers. What does offend me though, (not offend as much tempt me to think ill of you) is how people talk about it. “Oh, I don’t see how you could give up meat! It tastes so good!” Really? That is the biggest reason why you can’t imagine not having it: because you like it too much? To me, that would be a reason to think about possibly why I should give it up, if it really means that much! It tempts me to think, what else in this life are you not willing to give up because it’s too much fun? And the other is “Don’t you know that the Bible says that it’s okay to eat meat!” Seriously, i’ve been following Christ for while, so I know all about the speech the Noah about it being okay to eat meat. (which by the way, there would have been much vegetation in bloom shortly after the flood, so what was Noah supposed to eat? Olive branches?) And yes, I also know we are no longer under the law. The other side of that though is I’d give up anything for the unsurpassed glory of knowing Christ better! And I sincerely hope you would too!
I hope this post found everyone well. I hope it didn’t offend too many. (finding it amazing what people will be offended by, lately). I pray, though, that some of you may be inspired to considering giving up some things, so you may live a life free of the clutter, and see Christ all the more clearly! Peace.