Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Meat" Issues (Doctrines & Respect) Pt 1

Not everyone knows what a 'meat issue' is in Christian terms, so I'll start with the best known verses::

Romans 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not; and let not him who eateth not, judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth: and he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it to the Lord: and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live to the Lord; and whether we die, we die to the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living.

10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean by itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15 But if thy brother is grieved with thy food, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy food, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and approved by men.

19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another.
20 For the sake of food, destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine,
nor any thing by which thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eateth, because he eateth not from faith: for whatever is not from faith is sin.

The exact issues addressed in this passage are dietary restrictions, festivals, and sabbath day observances, which were already practiced differently in the spread out congregations due to doctrinal differences. Paul tells those who are arguing to live according to their conscience, but - as long as they are under Christ - DO NOT JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE'S BELIEFS OR DOCTRINES!!!

There is never a time when this teaching is out of style, especially in Protestant churches, where fairly major differences in doctrine can be found in (and splintered off from) every major denomination. Many, many people have been socially persecuted for differing from the interpretation du jour - and sometimes worse, in defiance of this teaching, and Jesus' more general "Love Thy Neighbor."

There is rarely anything of love in these very human judgments, the worst stains on the Bride's clothes come the pride that inspired such arguments, and the malice with which it was so often practiced by those who were called by the name Christian but had little concern for truly following Christ. Its common for believers to mention the Catholic versus Protestant mass slayings in these essays. Its common for unbelievers to reference the Salem witch trials & the Inquisition as the nadir of Christian kindness/tolerance, despite the fact that it was still mostly other Christians who were killed by their unloving 'believing' neighbors. Those are the worst examples we know in the Christian faith. (Though every faith has done it. Its a sinful human failing not a Christian one.) Calling other fellow believers 'infidels' goes aalll the way back to Paul's time. Indeed, Jesus got more than a taste of it!

Now most people in the US believe they have gone way beyond such primitive errors of faith. 'Nobody would do that now etc. Well, nobody is of a mind to haul out ye olde burning stakes this afternoon for differing on how many angels fit on the head of a pin, but the original failing - judging other believers doctrines as 'real' (and therefore worthy of respect) or 'not real' (and, therefore, virtually pagan and safe to despise - never mind that God loves those brothers - and pagans too!) - that goes on daily! Each practitioner is smugly certain that the despised are beyond the pale with God - and so, fair game for whatever spiteful words or deeds they allow themselves.

Reading McLaren's book "A Generous Orthodoxy" did me the enormous favor of articulating what I have seen way too many times. My own background is about as ecumenical as it gets, but very sola scriptura. Like McLaren, I have seen both Catholic, and many varieties of Protestant congregations, and learned much from all these journeys. I have found much to love in the Bride's many bits. I also found problems in each one, but as I know Jesus claims those who call upon Him, and loves every one of them, I have found it wisdom to restrict any comments to that which I see as done with love or respect for one another & God's work - or not. I don't expect everyone to agree even with these discussions, but I do expect them to pray over it, at least a little - and show honest concern and  respect for others too. Lot of places I never opened my mouth, but other places I have been called in to do just that, repeatedly, and pray very often before I do!

You know what they call you when they don't want to listen?

Care to guess?

Well - here's what they called Jesus -

John 8:48 Then answered the Jews, and said to him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan (heretic), and hast a demon (crazy)?
49 Jesus answered, I have not a demon; but I honor my Father, and ye dishonor me.
50 And I seek not my own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.
that's the one approach~ The other one is what my husband calls the 'just a housewife from Virginia' syndrome.

Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Judas, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
4 But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kindred, and in his own house.

One guy actually told me that he didn't need to listen to what I was sharing as believer (I thought he was one) because I didn't do the same job he did. 'Let me know when you are in the industry.' He wasn't a carpenter either...

Know what Jesus said about it?

John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatever I command you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
18 If the world hateth you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

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