Flaunting Our Bacon

Imagine that the apostle Paul has an iPhone with Instagram capabilities. Do you think he would send this out to all of his Jewish friends:

    “Eat this Jews!”

Because of the work of Christ people are now free to eat bacon. Yet, some early Christians had a difficult time making this transition. They grew up thinking that everything that came from a pig was dirty and defiled. In the same way some Gentiles had a difficult time eating food that had been previously offered to idols. Others believed they were free to do anything. 

This was Paul’s response to both:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them in its blessings.

You can ask several questions of this text and debate them all day. But one thing is clear. The gospel caused Paul to be absolutely “others” focused. It’s the same thing he said in Galatians 5. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

I don’t see Paul sending an Instagram photo of him eating bacon so as to teach people a theology of freedom. He didn’t flaunt his freedom as a way of showing the supremacy of Christ. In fact truly free people don’t flaunt their freedom, they quietly enjoy it. When you are free—and really living in freedom—you aren’t focused on the freedom itself. In Christ our focus is now on our liberty to truly love and follow Christ and lovingly serve others.

And that’s what has me bothered by much of the behavior of my generation when it comes to Christian freedoms. We pretend like Jesus Christ died to make us free–and then we stick a period on that statement and move on. But there isn’t a period there. There is a comma. Jesus Christ died to make us free so that we can “through love serve one another”.

Listen, the last thing I want to do is give a list of rules. When we are talking about these Christian freedoms I don’t think “right/wrong” is the most helpful question. It’s usually an issue of wisdom and an issue of love. So I propose three questions to ask ourselves about our freedoms:

  1. Are you using your freedom to serve yourself or others? How so?
  2. Is your identity in Christ or in your “freedom”?
  3. Are you free to NOT engage in this freedom?  (Here you need to read this article by Patrick Schreiner which links to this helpful article by Brett McCracken.

There is more to be said on this, but I’ll leave it there for today…

  • Anonymous

    I like the idea being conveyed – let’s not flaunt what God has done for us. We should continue in humility, seeing as we didn’t deserve (and still don’t deserve) what He did for us.

    However, I must address the whole bacon issue. I grew up eating pork chops (and applesauce). But it’s become very clear over the last few years that believing that Jesus died so we could be free to eat bacon is the common incorrect belief of Christians. Covenants did come to an end – they were not “eternal” or “everlasting,” as most scripture translates them, but rather “for an age.” An unknown period of time. His death was the end of the age for some covenants – animal sacrifice and circumcision to name two. But no laws changed with His death – not a jot or tittle. Rather than the High Priest being done away with, He became the High Priest. He became the Sacrifice. His dream/vision to Peter was that he – as a child of God – should not judge other people (Gentiles) as being unclean as we do pigs. Even Peter – who was initially confused with why God would tell him to eat pig – figured out that his dream had nothing to do with what he could eat, but that eating (associating) with people who he had previously associated as unclean was acceptable. (and actually always had been – it was one of man’s traditions to do this)

    Same thing is true with those who were “weak” – it had nothing to do with pork, and everything to do with concern about what the meat (food) might have been sacrificed to. Paul said, “It doesn’t matter” – meat sacrificed to a god that doesn’t exist was sacrificed to nothing.

    re: “food.” God never considered pigs as “food.” But as unclean animals. All food is edible – that scripture is true because not everything man chooses to call food is considered food by God.

    And – we know that pork is not healthy for us. Same with lobster and crab (cockroaches of the sea). Unclean.

    This is not a salvation issue. But it is an obedience issue for those who claim to be one of God’s children.

    I know most will disagree with my assessment. That’s your choice – no reason to debate. I share in case someone has wondered about this, and this might give them a reason to look at the issue a little more closely. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    @Anon: “His death was the end of the age for some covenants – animal sacrifice and circumcision to name two. But no laws changed with His death – not a jot or tittle. “

    But I think you’re bifurcating the Mosaic covenant into individual covenants. There wasn’t a “no textile blending” covenant, a “no tattoo” covenant, and so forth. There were lots of regulations essentially given to Moses at once.

    You’re right to say that the laws didn’t change. But fulfilling is altogether different than ‘changing.’

    So let’s not get all weird on the single issue of kosher law for pigs. Once you go there, then your cotton/poly gym socks, your clean shaven face… all of that is still binding if, as I’m hearing you say, Jesus didn’t specifically substitute something in its place.

    Christianity is a religion of principles, not regulations, and that’s what gives us fits. The principle Paul is going for is to love your neighbor, and put their welfare above your own wishes and freedom. You’re right in that this “wasn’t about pork,” but you didn’t go quite far enough, I think.

    Grace and peace to you!
    Morgan

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