Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
People certainly love their food, especially when you consider the size of that dish in the picture. Where I work, this is also true. There are two times during the day in which most of the warehouse floor will take time to eat. The first is just before noon, which is roughly when one of the local lunch wagons (also called “gut truck”) arrives. The second time is usually mid-afternoon, for lunch.
During my time in the US Navy, I sampled foods from several places in the world. There were things that I’d never eat again, and things that I wish I could enjoy again. Yet, food is a part of the culture in many countries, and it was a lesson I learned quickly.
How important is food from a cultural standpoint? Note how I said that there were things I tried that I’d never eat again, well, there are countries in which there are things that they would never eat to begin with. One such example is Israel and the diet of the Hebrew people. They will not, normatively speaking, eat pork or shellfish. God forbid the eating of these in the Mosaic Law. Thus, honoring the command of God, they follow the dietary requirements that God command them via Moses. This is completely understandable and acceptable.
However, Christ Jesus, in order to teach Peter a lesson in what the church would include, gave Peter a pretty strange command. In the Bible, in the tenth chapter of the book of Acts, we find that an angel of God is calling a centurion named Cornelius to send for Peter. Cornelius is a gentile. Normally, Jewish people had few dealings with gentiles, as could be evidenced by how only the Jews could enter the inner court of the temple in Jerusalem. Yet, now a gentile is being told to send for a specific Jewish man, one of the disciples of Christ, to come and see him.
Where was Peter at the time? Well, to some extent, he was not exactly following the Mosaic Law. Peter was staying with a man called Simon the tanner. Another term for a tanner is a taxidermist. How is Peter not following the Mosaic Law? If you know what a taxidermist is, you know that they handle dead things, which God’s law specifically prohibits. Thus, Peter is already in a bad spot, and then things get turned upside down on him.
The tenth verse of the tenth chapter of Acts sets the stage for what was to come. Peter went up on the roof of Simon’s home around the sixth hour. While up there, he has a vision in which a sheet comes down with various animals, including reptiles and birds, and a voice tells him to “arise, kill, and eat”. Peter protests. Three times this happens, then Peter is told not to call “unclean” that which God has declared clean. Peter doesn’t understand, until the men sent by Cornelius arrive, and then Peter is told to accompany them at once.
What does this mean? Its two-fold to some degree. First is the fact that God was saying to Peter that gentiles are now a part of the fold. Secondly, the prohibitions regarding food were part of the now fulfilled ceremonial law, and God was no longer as interested in outward piety so much as inward repentance. However, just because it is lawful to eat does not mean we can do so without discretion.
In dying upon the cross and rising again on the third day, Christ Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law. Yes, the moral law still remains, and will remain. However, the moral law is still needed that we may know what sin is. Either way, the law does not save us nor does it abolish our sins. Only Christ can do that.
Food is part of culture. Some cultures either embrace or reject certain foods. All cultures are bound to the moral law of God, though some do not choose to abide by it. Eat what you may, but consider your neighbor, that what you eat does not offend his culture, even if it means waiting to eat.
Truthfully, Lutheran Satire handles this topic better than I can. Here is their take on it: