How Safe is Your Table of Fellowship?

How Safe is Your Table of Fellowship?

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Romans 14:10-23Many people use this passage as reason to teach people not to eat meat (worded here as “flesh”), although by this time in the writing of Scripture, the word “meat” is starting to take on both “food” and “flesh” in meaning and context. Here we see Paul saying that food should not be a stumbling block between you and other believers. This passage continues the thought shared in my group, earlier in the same chapter. This passage refers to each person being fully persuaded in their level of faith in what God has made available for food. The person who can’t eat something is not to be harsh with the person who can. The person who can eat something is not to be harsh with the person who can’t. In today’s world, we DO have people teaching NOT to eat animal food products, and we most definitely DO have people looking down on those who eat beef or pork or chicken or fish as somehow being “less than”.

The biggest “less than” is that of a misplaced sense of environmental consciousness. But nothing makes that angle more hypocritical than those who champion plastics as fake leather while crying that the oceans are filling with microplastics! Others try to say that the farming of food animals harms the environment more than the farming of vegetables. I can only assume they are completely unaware that most cattle grazing land is not suitable for supporting large produce operations, speaking as a Canadian where our cattle ranches really are ranches and not feedlots! Where I live, one rancher has such a huge tract of land, that his cows are often seen roaming free across a number of hillsides. This is the beef praised around the world!

The modern anti-meat movement still wants to appear as if they are eating meat, creating all kinds of meatless alternatives that are supposed to look, taste, and feel like the food they look down on others for eating! I’ve had the misfortune of picking up some of these packages and reading the ingredient lists, and they fit squarely into the realm of “ultra-processed foods”. The ingredient lists are often quite long, and not always readable unless you’re a scientist. I wish I took a photo of a box of Starbucks Beyond Meat breakfast sausage look-alikes. Bone broth actually featured roughly halfway down the ingredient list! A more recent box of Beyond Meat in different packaging for a different company did not mention the bone broth, but it explained why when I tried to eat some fake chicken cutlets, I had the same allergic reaction that I get from eating real store-bought chicken! I can eat range-fed (ie: non-grain or pellets) chicken just fine, but store-bought chicken is rarely range-fed. So after reading the side of that Starbucks box and having the chicken reaction, two different instances by the way, I discovered that there may very well be hidden ingredients in these products that actually DO come from animal sources. So we have vegans and vegetarians trying to make meat-eaters look bad while trying to eat look-alikes made from long lists of ingredients that sometimes come from chemicals and other times come from animals.

When we move away from those who pass judgement based on activism, or a twisted concept of “eating healthier”, we come to those who do or don’t eat based on conviction. This is the group Paul is talking about. Prior to the Law being handed down, when Noah came off the Ark after the flood had receded, God gave him all things for food and sustinance, including the animals. When the Law was given at Sinai, God narrowed down the food choices for various groups of animals. After Christ brokered the New Covenant with His death and resurrection, God showed Peter in a dream, that He considered all creatures to be clean, and used that example to help Peter accept the mission He was about to send him on. In other words, under the New Covenant, we as believers can legitimately return to the wide range of foods prior to the Law, as we are not under the Law of Sin, we are under the Law of Grace. However, Paul knew at the time he wrote his letters, that there would be believers who would discover what had been given under the Law of Sin, and feel they must stick to that food list. This would be particularly true of Messianic believers, Jews who had accepted Christ as Messiah and gotten saved. They would have spent their entire lives to that point, following the food laws in the Torah, so for them to open up to the wider available food list would potentially be troublesome to them.

A second sub-group in the conviction category was shared as a verse quote last time, where people who as of yet do not move in the authority given them by the Holy Spirit, and can’t bring themselves to eat meat sold out back behind temples to false gods.

Romans 14:1-3

In both conviction groups, respect for that person’s background and conviction is important to accepting them as fellow believers in the Body of Christ. They, however, are to respect you in your food choices as well. Where it would trip up a fellow believer and cause them to sin, we are to show respect for where they are at, and eat accordingly in their presence. Forcing someone to eat against their conviction, according to this passage, is causing that person to sin!

But activism and conviction are joined by a third group that often gets overlooked in these discussions. There are some out there who honestly lack the required enzymes to break down animal proteins. For some, this lack occurred sometime between childhood and adulthood and can be addressed with pineapple or enzyme supplements that give their stomach what is necessary to break down animal products. People who choose to go vegan as youth or adults, can usually kick start their body’s creation of these enzymes again, although depending on how long they’ve been vegan and whether or not they’ve been eating fake meat with real meat products hidden inside, it should be encouraged slowly. For others who were born without those enzymes, adding them may or may not be of benefit on a case by case basis. It is still not healthy for them to be eating the ultra-processed animal-product look-alikes just as these are equally unhealthy for the other two groups. But they need respect from omnivorous and carnivorous people as well.

There is a phrase in this passage that should be highlighted:

“Let not then your good be evil spoken of”.

Just as there are various foods that work better for some people than others, there are various foods some will or won’t eat based on activism, conviction, or physiological necessity. Unfortunately, activism and conviction tend to pit people against each other not only in society at large, but in the Church as well, with the poor people who can’t eat wheat or meat, caught in the middle. There are many reasons to incorporate meat-based products into your daily diet. The more I discover, the more it appears as if the push for vegetarianism or veganism was done deliberately to weaken the broader population and make them more susceptible to the problems associated with the viral threats we now face since 2020.

I must confess that activist-based food choices tend to get me scoffing, because much of what they pass off as research or studies, overlooks practices that I see all the time here in Canada. I land in the conviction group with how I can’t bring myself to drink alcohol of any type, meaning my idea of making tinctures is to work with vinegar or glycerin if I’m not making infusions using water or oil. I have had to work on my discomfort being around others who can respectfully handle a glass of wine or other alcohol as a result. My brother has ended up in the physiological necessity group as he fights a very long battle trying to heal up and come back from massive glyphosate damage, and previously working in a building where propylene glycol was used to clean refrigerant pipes. His ability to process animal products has dropped to almost nill as a result.

Let us each endeavour to be more Christ-like in this area of public life. Food is a big part of doing life together, so much so that most of the celebrations God calls for in Scripture, involve food to some degree. God’s idea of fellowship is what started the Church’s idea of fellowship, where people enjoy a meal together and come around the table to praise God, encourage each other, and meet each other’s needs. The table of fellowship is not a safe place when a person is not able to eat according to their level of faith, conviction, or health.

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