The Wades have led our Good Neighbor Team (refugee ministry). For Thanksgiving, they went all out and invited “our” Afghan family to their home to share one very American meal. But our family will only eat halal (halal is to the Muslim what kosher is to the Jew). My first reaction was, why can’t our family adjust to America? I mean, shouldn’t they adjust to our culture? Eventually?
That got me thinking (being self-centered has a way of doing that, you know). Why was halal instituted in the first place? I have no idea. So I asked, why did God require a kosher diet? There are books written on the health benefits of eating kosher. So is it a health issue? Hmmm, I’m not so sure. If it was health related, why the change in after the resurrection? Does God not care about our health as much now? There may be health benefits, but is that main reason Israel ate kosher? I think not.
Let me offer another scenario. Eating kosher makes you unique. It says who you cannot eat with. And maybe that was one way God preserved the unique nature of Israel. If you are eating kosher and I am not, we will never share a meal together. We will keep separate while eating. No bonds will be built. No sharing of life. And perhaps that is exactly the point.
At a meal you get together to talk and share and deepen friendships, which is exactly what God did not want His people to do as they lived among pagans. It would be too easy to mix cultures and accept pagan thoughts if you ate together. So if they cannot – and do not – share meals in common, that decreases the likelihood of the degradation of the faith. It would keep them separate. Unique. Holy.
But what changes after the coming of Jesus? Food regulations – they are abandoned. You can eat anything. You are free. What did that do? It allowed the church to share a meal with someone not of the faith. It allowed the building of relationships. We are free. In the world, but not of the world. And out of our freedom we can choose to eat halal for Thanksgiving. We can choose to mingle. We should choose to mingle.
We cannot expect people to change for us. We change for them. It’s called outreach (aka True Religion). We become all things to all people, that we might win some. Jesus left heaven to bring redemption. So, we can eat halal to demonstrate that redemption. Do not flaunt your freedom. Sometimes choose to limit your freedom for the sake of the Kingdom. Thanks, Wades, for the Thanksgiving lesson.