Friday, January 25, 2013

Lutheran Look: Why can Christians eat pork?

So, if you've ever spent a few moments flipping through Leviticus (hey, you might have!) you've noticed there's a whole lot of laws there.  Those laws are called the Holiness Code, and while you may have thought the Ten Commandments were a lot to memorize, these total up to about 613 laws!

And many of them sound strange to Christian ears.  We are told not to eat pork, or shellfish, or a wide variety of "unclean" animals.  It says not to wear cloth of made of two kinds of fibers (so no poly/cotton blend shirts) or plant more than one crop in a field, or boil a lamb in it's mother's milk.  (I... wasn't really planning on doing that last one anyway.  That just seems mean.  It is where the best known rule of "keeping kosher" that many Jews still follow, of not having dairy products and meat in the same meal- so no cheeseburgers- comes from though.)

These aren't laws that Christians, by and large, follow.  Perhaps you've wondered why?  Jewish people still follow most of them (the ones about Temple offerings can't be followed, as currently there's no Temple) and Muslims don't eat pork either.

 Remember a couple weeks ago, when, during the lectionary post for the wedding at Cana, I talked a bit about Jesus having come to fulfill the law?  That's where this is going.  Now, Jesus did not come to abolish or destroy the law, he's very clear about that (see Matthew 5:17-18)  Fulfilling the law was quite the opposite.  He didn't hate or destroy the law, or make it so the law never existed- instead he brought it to completion by following it fully, to his own death (and resurrection!).

This is all explained rather nicely in Galatians 3:23-26: "Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith."

Before Christ, the way to "justify" yourself with God- make your relationship with God right, find salvation, etc.- was to follow the law, because you could not, back then, be justified (made right) by your faith.  But then Jesus came, and because of Jesus' death and resurrection, which fulfilled the law, we are not subject to the law in the same way, because we now are justified through faith.

If you're still concerned about food in particular, we have Acts 10:9-16,where Peter has a dream about unclean foods after Jesus' time.  "About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’ The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven."

And right after this, a centurion named Cornelius comes to stay with Peter, having been directed to Peter by the Holy Spirit, with some other people.  Cornelius is also Christian, but was never Jewish- a Gentile Christian.  And the next time Peter preached (just a verse or two later) he talked to the crowd how, as a Jew, he shouldn't have let a Gentile stay with him, but as a Christian, because of his dream and how God had spoken to Cornelius, it didn't matter anymore.  And then Peter goes on for quite a bit about how God isn't partial to any nation, he treats them all the same.

This is not to say we don't follow any laws!  We certainly do.  We follow the Ten Commandments, and the rules that Jesus gave us in the Gospels (there are a bunch of those, but not 613!) and most importantly what Jesus called the two Greatest Commandments- to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  We read the Bible, and try to figure out which rules that people in it followed because they wanted to "get right with God", which isn't something we use rules for anymore, and which ones are good rules for society and to keep good relationships with each other.  (That usually helps our relationship with God a lot, if you haven't noticed that yet.)  That's part of why we have so many Christian denominations- we have different ideas about which are which.  I'll certainly be talking about some more of them in these Lutheran Look posts, down the line.

I hope this helped!  God bless.

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