Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why I Don't Eat Shellfish

Not too awfully long ago, when my husband and I would go to our favorite Cajun restaurant, I would order my usual...a huge platter of royal reds shrimp. Heads, shells, veins, and all! I absolutely loved them! I also loved ham, and sausage, and bacon...mmmm...bacon...everything was better with bacon.

Then, sometime last fall, all that changed forever.

This journey of faith has taken me to places that I never dreamed I would go. In a year's time, it's brought into question things that I've known and loved all my life. From the Sabbath, to holiday traditions, right down to the things I eat. Food was actually one of the first issues that caught my attention when studying the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy, or the "Law"), so I had to look a little further into what the Bible says about it. If not for one particular event in my life a few years earlier, though, I may not have been concerned at all about the issue of food.

Several years ago, I reconnected with a good friend of mine from high school. She was my best friend, in fact. Way back when, she was always different from everyone else. Very intelligent and funny, she was also into "punk" music, which is really what set her apart from your typical 80's teenage girl. Instead of big hair, heavy eyeliner, and neon jelly shoes, she opted for short hair, no make-up, a leather jacket, and wing tips. I'll never forget her little white Toyota Corolla with a bumper sticker on the front windshield that said "Why Be Normal?" It was placed on the window upside-down.

She was a year ahead of me and started to college when I began my senior year. We didn't see much of each other that year, and as the months and years went by, our visits became less and less. I heard through the grapevine sometime that year that she had come out of the proverbial closet not long after starting college. And the strange thing is, I never saw it coming. I guess I was more naive than I realized.

So, anyway, we reconnected and had lunch together one day. It was obvious when I saw her again that she had completely embraced the homosexual lifestyle. Our views on that subject were obviously polar opposite, so I tried to avoid that topic all together. It was like the big pink elephant in the room. But, as the saying goes, "love the sinner, hate the sin." Since this was relatively early in my walk with God, I was careful not to bring up anything that I wasn't able to back up with scripture, so I just let it go.

Several months passed after our lunch together, and because of a Facebook group that I "liked" (I believe it was called "Marriage: One Man-One Woman" or something to that effect), an online debate ensued between the two of us after she e-mailed me, expressing her disappointment that I would "like" such a group. I guess she thought that since I was friendly and accepted her back into my life as a friend, that meant that I condoned the lifestyle she chose.

By this time, I was a little more zealous in my faith, and e-mail makes it a whole lot easier to be bold. So, I proceeded to write her a long e-mail dissertation about why I considered her lifestyle as wrong as any other sexual sin - homo- or hetero-sexual. She, in turn, gave me scriptures from whence she gleaned that her lifestyle is okay and pointed to me as being in the wrong. I knew enough about the Bible to see through that attempt, but one thing she said to me that I couldn't explain was, "the Bible also says that eating shellfish is an abomination." I'm sure I gave her some lame, half-informed excuse for that, but deep down, it bothered me. I wondered, "why is it that it's okay to eat pork and shellfish when the Bible says it isn't?" It really didn't make any sense to me, either. I buried her statement in the recesses of my mind, and didn't really give it a whole lot of thought after that. She and I haven't communicated since.

Little did I know that years later, I would revisit the issue of shellfish in my diet, but for a totally different reason. When I began studying the Torah last year, this was something that I earnestly sought the truth about. In my zeal, I had tried unsuccessfully to minister to someone about the sin in their life, and if what she said was true about the sin in mine, I wanted to know the truth.

As I searched for answers, what I found was enough to convict me. I've heard people say that since Jesus went to the cross for us, we're no longer under the Law, but we are now under grace, and that all our sins are nailed to the cross. While that sounds good on the one hand, and I believe that to be true to a certain degree, I have a hard time accepting that to be proof that God doesn't frown upon my eating a plateful of those yummy royal reds.

There are several reasons why I decided to refrain from eating foods that God deems "unclean." Here are just a few:

Jesus Didn't Nullify the Law

Jesus said himself, as recorded in Matthew 5:17, that He didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Really, I could have stopped here and been just fine with that. If Jesus said it, it stands to reason that if Paul or anyone else says otherwise, there must be a wrong interpretation somewhere. I understand his work on the cross to be the atonement for my sins, not the sin itself. He didn't go to the cross so that I could do whatever I want. He went to the cross to pay the penalty for me, because ultimately, I will stumble, and His grace is there to cover me.

The Law is Still Valid

God has shown us how to live holy lives in His Law. He says to be holy, for He is holy. (1 Peter 1:16). Grace was there when He gave the Law to Moses, otherwise the Israelites wouldn't know what was sin and what wasn't, nor would they know what it meant to "be holy." That part, I believe, hasn't changed. Grace is still there to catch us when we fall...we just don't have to make blood sacrifices anymore because Jesus' blood was the ultimate sacrifice. All we have to do is to believe in Him. I believe, however, that as a result of His sacrifice on my behalf, my response should be that of obedience to what He has already established for me as holy-living, which is found in the Law.

Some people say that we can't abide by the Law because there's no temple and because we no longer have to make blood sacrifices. True. But does the Bible not say that our bodies are the temple of God? (1 Cor. 6:19-20). And do we not offer up the sacrifice of praise and worship of Him? Granted, it's not as involved as killing a bull, but praise and worship still involves sacrifice on our part, especially during those times when we may not feel like praising Him. Things have changed as far as the sacrificial system goes, but the Law is still alive and well.

Eating is an Important Issue in the Bible

What was the first thing that Adam and Eve were instructed not to do? They were told not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They had one Law, and it had to do with food. I've read somewhere before that if you want to know the true context of a topic in the Bible, go to the very first mention of it. Good enough for me.

Mis-Interpreted Scriptures

There are several scriptures in the New Testament that are frequently used by the "under Grace" lot to prove that God gave us the freedom to eat whatever we want - that He "changed His mind" about food. Scriptures such as Acts 10:9-13, Mark 7:14-22, and 1 Corinthians 10:25, for example, when read out of context, seem to imply that we can eat whatever we want. However, if taken in the proper context, they actually have to do with Gentiles (whom the Jews thought to be unclean), hand-washing before eating (a man-made law), and food offered up to idols, respectively; not "clean," consumable food. Understanding that the Jews only considered "clean" animals to be food, per God's instructions in the Torah, there was no question about the consumption of clean or unclean animals. They just didn't eat unclean things. When the Scriptures are read in context and not with a particular denominational slant, it is clear that God never changed the status of unclean animals to clean.

So, for me, at least, the dietary laws found in Leviticus 11 are fully operational. It just doesn't make any sense to me to think otherwise. I don't know why God chose certain animals to be food and others to not be food, but He did, and again, that's good enough for me. He did, after all, create well as all the He would know better than anyone what's good for me, I think. Besides that, a little research will reveal that those "unclean" animals are scavengers that eat pretty much whatever they can find - including the waste of other animals. Not something I want to put in my body, regardless of how good it tastes.

I will close by saying that I know fully well that my salvation is not dependent on whether or not I eat a pork chop. My salvation comes from my faith in Jesus, and from nowhere else. My desire to follow His Laws comes from a sincere desire to please Him and to be obedient because He is eternally faithful to me. It's a matter of sanctification, not salvation. It's an act of love for my God and my Savior.

"Come out and be separate from the world; touch no unclean thing and I will receive you." 2 Corinthians 6:17


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