Taking Control of the Rest of Our Lives

Anti Aging Advocate, Issue #002 -- Meat Made to Eat

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In this issue we're looking at MEAT again. It's a great source of protein, but which are the best meats to eat? What should we learn from the Bible about eating meat? What is the difference between clean and unclean meat?

Coming up...
AAA Issue #003 -- Conventional vs. Organic vs. Free-Range Meats
AAA Issue #004 -- Sleeping Your Way to Anti Aging Success

Meat Made to Eat

Unclean Meat -- Isn't That a Jewish Religious Prohibition?

If God created some animals for eating and others were not created for human consumption, but are instead bad for us to eat, that would be good to know, wouldn't it? But weren't the biblical laws about unclean meats just for the people of Israel -- the descendants of Abraham? Why should I try to revive some musty old laws from the Hebrew scriptures, that most of the world has ignored for millennia? Didn't Jesus and his apostles teach that God changed the requirements about not eating certain meats?

I'd like to try to answer these questions in the next few paragraphs. If you'll keep an open mind, I think you'll understand why the Bible ever had any instructions about what kinds of meats we should or shouldn't eat. And please understand -- my purpose in discussing this is not to bring some kind of bondage into your life -- far from it. I only want to help you to experience the best of life as you seek to take control of your health.

Back to Creation

The first scriptural mention of unclean and clean animals is found in the seventh chapter of Genesis -- about a thousand years before Moses delivered God's laws to Israel. God told Noah to take with him on the ark seven of every clean animal and two of every animal that was not clean. After Noah got off the ark, he sacrificed only clean animals and birds as an expression of his thanksgiving for God's deliverance.

Before the flood God made a clear distinction and Noah understood that there was an obvious difference between clean and unclean animals. But after the flood didn't God tell Noah that mankind could now eat of every moving thing that was alive on the earth? (Genesis 9:3) Yes, but the context clearly shows that the diet change that God was initiating was not the eating of unclean animals, but the eating of meat as opposed to merely a vegetarian diet. And if Noah would've eaten any of the unclean animals coming off the ark, he would likely have exterminated that species, for there were only two of each.

The Blessing of the Law

We don't typically think of laws as a blessing, but rightly understood, laws tell us what we shouldn't do so we won't suffer from doing things that are bad for us and others. God gave the people of Israel laws that, if they would keep them, would result in marvelous blessings for all who obeyed. None of God's laws were arbitrary; everyone of them had purpose and meaning. Included among God's laws were certain dietary restrictions. The people were promised good health and freedom from disease, if they would only follow God's laws.

So that there was no confusion, God, for the first time in the scriptures, delineated exactly what were the distinctions and kinds of animals, birds, and insects that could or could not be eaten. There is no reason to believe that these distinctions were any different from the ones God spoke of to Noah some thousand years earlier. There was simply a more objective clarity to that which was intended by God to be food for people. God was not trying to keep people from eating meats that were tasty, but rather to keep us from eating animals that were never intended to be food for humans. How would people know what wasn't good for them if the creator didn't tell them?

The Teaching of Jesus

In chapter seven of the Gospel of Mark, verses 18-23, Jesus is explaining why it is what comes out of a man's mouth that defiles him, rather than that which goes into his mouth. He was responding to the Pharisees criticism of his disciples because they ate food without observing the ceremonial washing of their hands that was the tradition of the elders. In verse 19, the NIV reads: "For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body. (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean.')" This translation/interpretation, unfortunately, adds words -- as do the NASB and others -- that are not in the original Greek text.

The King James Version got it right: Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? There is no parenthetical comment by the gospel writer here, Jesus is simply saying that whatever food goes into your body, whether you observe ceremonial washing or not, will soon pass from and be purged out of your body. It gets flushed and is gone from your body. But what fills your heart and mind can come out of you as deceit, slander, envy, pride, and foolishness. These things, unlike food eaten with ceremonially impure hands, have a long-term negative effect upon a person. If, as some translations indicate, Jesus was indeed declaring unclean meats to be clean, his apostles didn't get it, because some twenty years later Peter responded to the Lord's vision, saying: I have never eaten anything unclean.

The Vision of Peter

In Acts, chapter ten, is the record of that vision the Lord gave the apostle Peter, in which he was instructed that the gospel was not just for Jewish people, but for as many as would be willing to receive it. This was a radical change for Peter and the rest of the followers of Jesus. They were all Jews, who had grown up in a tradition that told them Gentiles (non-Jews) were unclean and that they shouldn't socialize with them. God is here teaching Peter and the others that the door of the Church of Jesus Christ is open to all who will enter through faith, regardless of race. This kind of radical change in thinking and acting would require a clear word from God

God gave Peter a thrice-repeated vision, an instruction from the Holy Spirit, a precisely-timed visit from seekers, the report of the appearance of an angel, and the supernatural sign of languages -- all so that he would get the message. In the vision he is told to kill and eat from all kinds of animals, both those clean and unclean. As I mentioned earlier, he responds that he has never eaten anything unclean. After the vision, he is unclear about its meaning. But after the confluence of several well-timed events and messages he declares that the message of the vision was clear to him. Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him." (Acts 10:34-35) There is no indication that Peter ever concluded that God was changing his instructions about eating unclean animals.

The Teachings of Paul on Freedom

The apostle Paul dealt with two concerns in his writings which touched upon the subject of eating. The first of these concerns is found in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8, where the author speaks of keeping a clear conscience in what you approve, or decide to do. A real issue for New Testament era Christians was the eating of meats that had previously been offered to idols. For those who had been idol worshipers this was a perplexing issue, since they considered this kind of meat eating an essential part of their former way of life. For those who came to faith in Jesus having never been idol worshipers, it was no big deal to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols.

The apostle does not say anything about eating clean versus unclean meats in these texts. His concern instead is that Christians not condemn themselves in what they approve. The application is for all issues that the Bible does not specifically or generally address. If it is beneficial to you, edifying to others, and does not bring you into bondage, then you can do it. If your conscience does not condemn you and if you are not causing a less mature Christian to stumble into sin, you are free to do it.

The Teachings of Paul on Bondage

In Colossians 2 and 1 Timothy 4, the apostle addresses questions concerning those who were promoting asceticism as a means of attaining spiritual maturity. Ever since the beginning of the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, there have been those that want to load people down with rules. Jesus taught that the truth would set a person free; these false teachers wanted to add rules to the lives of followers of Jesus. Specifically they advocated abstaining from things God created to be good: marriage and eating of certain foods. They taught that if a person denies themselves pleasure of any kind, this would enable them experience greater victory over sin.

Some people today misunderstand the context of these passages and think that Paul is here teaching that God created unclean meats to be good for people. They think that Paul is teaching that if only you pray before you eat, any food is good for you. There is no discussion of clean versus unclean meats in these chapters, but rather rather eating foods that God taught could be eaten versus abstaining from such foods in order to deny yourself pleasure. The apostle calls these people advocating asceticism "hypocritical of liars who are seared in their own conscience".

Eat Meats God Created to be Eaten

Since God first declared and then subsequently described the difference between clean and unclean animals, there is no biblical text which indicates that God reversed himself. God made some animals to be supper and some animals to be scavengers. Some were made for eating and some were not made for eating. Just as there are some plants that are good for you and some that will kill you, not all meats are meant for food.

Now you may say: "I've eaten a lot of bacon and shrimp, and am none the worse for it." To this I respond-- if you want to experience the best of health for as long as possible, and to be free from the pharmacist and the physician, why not follow the creator's instructions? If you were the creator and you wanted to keep those whom you loved from eating what you never created to be food, could you have made it any more clear than God did in Leviticus 11?

I encourage you to give up the so-called freedom to eat whatever you want. It may make the difference in the way you feel and enable you to experience a greater freedom from sickness and disease. If you haven't yet read through the section of the website on food -- a balanced diet of healthy food is essential for enjoying a successful anti aging lifestyle.

Next Month's Anti Aging Advocate

This has been a fairly intense study of an important, but oft-neglected biblical teaching on nutrition and health. Next month we'll consider the meats you buy in the store. The meats you find there have been raised according to one of three standards: conventional, organic, or free-range. We'll talk about the definitions, the downsides, and the advantages of each. Till then...

May God bless you,
Gary Radmacher

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