01 May What Can We Eat?
Vegan, vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian…all of these are labels used to define individuals by how they eat. Concerns about animal cruelty, religion or health may be some of the reasons someone may choose a restrictive diet. However, what it basically comes down to is a decision about what one is taking into his/her body.
Social media and the news are full of reports of what we should and should not eat. One article may say a food item is bad, while another will say that the exact same thing is great for our health. We may try to eat healthy but realize that there is no true consensus on what healthy looks like. It can be confusing and frustrating.
In Scripture, the Old Testament is full of rules about food and eating even down to how they washed their hands before they ate. In Jesus’ time, the people still lived under these rules and beliefs. In fact, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and the disciples about eating with unwashed / defiled hands. I love the way Jesus handled their concerns and his comments give us some guidance as to what we take into our bodies today. Jesus told them, “nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them (Mark 7:15, NIV).” He went on to say, “don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body (Mark 7:18-19, NIV).” In other words, they were so hung up on laws related to what they were eating and how they were preparing to eat but less focused on what really matters such as the condition of their hearts.
Jesus is not concerned about us defiling our bodies by what we are eating. In fact, one version actually ends this section by clearly stating that “in saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.” Another version says “by saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.” In this one encounter, Jesus erased all the restrictions, rules and laws that were put into place about food.
With that said, that doesn’t give us permission to just go crazy (we will talk about gluttony next week); however, it does free us from judging ourselves or others about what we eat. What we eat is a personal choice; we are free to choose according to our health needs and preferences. Just remember that Jesus is more concerned about our heart health than He is with our healthy heart diet.