Deut 14 3
Good News,  Ministry,  NT Brit Hadasha,  Tanakh,  Torah

That Pork Barbecue might be ruining your testimony

Some background about a Sunday church

When I was in grad school, I used to attend Sunday church at a small Pentecostal church just a few miles from the university. I loved that church. I loved the people, I loved the music, I loved the ministry! The believers at this church loved the Lord and really did a good job of including newcomers and students (like me) and sharing the Gospel with love. It didn’t feel cliquish like so many small churches, and it was a wonderful place for any young believer to grow in their faith.

Like most evangelical churches, the pastor and leaders emphasized such spiritual practices as fasting and prayer, and encouraged everyone to read the Bible for themselves. If you didn’t bring a Bible with you, an usher would have given you one.

The preaching seemed balanced. Examples of Biblical praise and worship were cited from both testaments, and plenty of sermons had to do with Moses, Joshua, and David. These folks knew the Scriptures, and knew them well.

One Sunday after church . . . ordering pork bbq

I wasn’t entirely prepared for the fact that these believers had a very different understanding of the Christian’s relationship to Torah than I did. After accepting Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) during my undergrad years in Chicago, I have since held to what I suppose could be labeled as a “Messianic” theological perspective. I never struggled with the fact that my Messiah was a Jewish Rabbi! When I moved to the south, I realized that most believers either did not realize that, or flat out did not care!

I heard sermon after sermon talking about how Christians could now eat whatever they wanted because they have been “freed from the law” and were now “under grace.” I could appreciate the intent, but in my view, celebrating being freed from a curse is much different than declaring independence from wise and Holy Instructions.

So I will never forget the day after one such Sunday sermon when many of us from the church went out for lunch at a little restaurant in Durham, North Carolina.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I’m certain I raised my eyebrow when the pastor and the church leaders all ordered pork bbq.

Culture vs. Kosher

I know, I know, there are some cultural factors at play. NC is famous for pork barbecue, and I know from experience finding a place that serves turkey or chicken bbq is not easy. But this was actually a seafood restaurant. There were cleaner foods on the menu than that swine flesh.

When the food arrived, one of the church elders actually said, “Thank you Jesus, for the freedom to eat this yummy pig!”

Deut 14 3

The spiritual practice of fasting is a dietary restriction. Why not adhere then to the Lord’s dietary instructions?

These same Christians who routinely practice fasting and prayer were ok with fasting (a dietary restriction!) but not ok with adhering to Adonai’s dietary instructions regarding consumable foods.

Nobody in America goes to a restaurant looking to eat buzzards and vultures. Nobody I know has ever longed to eat an owl or a seagull or a bat.

Selective and collective cultural amnesia

This is cultural! The United States has a Judeo-Christian heritage. We collectively know that certain animals should not be consumed! But pork is cheap and the selective and collective amnesia that comes as people stray far from Torah leads people to load on the pork bacon and obsess about ham.

We collectively know that certain animals should not be consumed! But pork is cheap and the selective and collective amnesia that comes as people stray far from Torah leads people to load on the pork bacon and obsess about ham.

What does the Bible actually say?

You are not to eat any detestable thing. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat,  the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Among the animals, you may eat any animal that splits the hoof—the hoof completely split in two—and chews the cud. Yet of those that chew the cud or have a split hoof, you are not to eat the camel, the hare, and the rabbit—because they chew the cud but do not split the hoof, they are unclean to you. The pig, because it splits the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you—you are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses. Of all that are in the waters, these you may eat: whatever has fins and scales you may eat, but whatever does not have fins and scales you are not to eat—it is unclean to you. You may eat all clean birds, but these are the ones you are not to eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the red kite, the black kite, and any bird of prey of that kind, every raven of any kind, the ostrich, the owl, the seagull, a hawk of any kind, the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, the pelican, the Egyptian vulture, the cormorant, the stork, a heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. All winged insects are unclean to you—they are not to be eaten. You may eat any clean bird. You are not to eat anything that dies of itself. You may give it to the outsider within your gates so that he may eat it or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a holy people to ADONAI your God. . . .


A more Holistic and Pure Understanding of the Scriptures

I realized that day in that restaurant that there was such a huge disconnect in traditional Christian doctrine from what is actually written in the Bible.

Most believers (albeit unintentionally) really do pick and choose when it comes to obeying the Word of God.

The blame has to start at the top because so many Christians have simply been taught this way for their whole lives and don’t realize the nuances that can shape a more holistic and pure understanding of the Scriptures.

It boggles my mind that so many Christians will raise a big shout when Ten Commandment monuments and plaques are removed from courthouses across America, and rightly decry abortion, yet so many refuse to offer hospitality to the foreigner among them and aggressively defend their personal freedoms even at the expense of the health of others. What we need is the peace that surpasses our understanding so that we can rightly discern the Scriptures.

Is it lawful, is it beneficial?

Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul) invites believers in 1 Corinthians 6:12 to ask themselves an important question. Just because something is lawful to you, is it beneficial? Something may or may not be permitted, but is it helpful?

Baruch HaShem, I am a person of strong faith. That experience did not shake my faith, though it did shake my sensibilities. However, some people would have experienced that very differently. Why are Christians so surprised that their evangelistic efforts in Jewish communities often fall flat?

The Jew first, and also to the Greek

The Gospel is intended to be preached to all, but specifically to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Anyone raised in a serious and traditional Jewish household would immediately shudder had they been seated at a table with Christians passing around plates of swine flesh in the “name” of their Savior. There are plenty of beautiful, delicious “kosher” (clean) foods! Why not align our lifestyles to the Scriptures?! I’m so super certain that Messiah Jesus never ate pork chops.

Is your testimony being tarnished?

Personally, I feel that many Christians’ testimony gets a little tarnished by stuff like this. Whether its eating pigs or shrimp (the cockroaches of the sea), or picking and choosing any other number of verses to either over-emphasize or under-emphasize, we all have to work to keep our testimony pure and holy. The enemy loves when Christians sabotage the message! I would like to encourage you today, work on your testimony.

If you are like me and have ever confronted another believer about matters of Torah, you may have encountered some resistance. Sometimes absolute anger! Pray, be patient, and don’t get discouraged. I shared how I felt with some of the believers in that church, and eventually, I needed to move on. It was sad because believe me, like I said above, I loved that church and everyone who was a part of it!

My two cents: always keep in line with Scripture, and study the Word for yourself! #parashat_Re’eh

Would you like to share your testimony? Leave a comment! We would LOVE to hear about how you met Messiah. Do you keep kosher? How did you come to that decision? How do YOU think Messianic communities could help other believers grow in Torah and in Messiah? Like I said, leave a comment below!! Shalom!

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