Friday, January 24, 2020

An Invitation to Dinner

There was a lot of talk in Paul's day and in certain places about what kinds of food were okay for a person of this new Way to eat. Jews, of course, kept their kosher diets and were meticulous about what they were willing to put into their bodies but the same rules did not apply for these Gentiles, these Christians. And one of the biggest problems they had is that, although the Christians did not have a temple, per se, plenty of other faiths in the time did and a lot of this food was being offered as sacrifices to foreign gods.

With so much going on, just what is a person to eat?

Paul gives some guidelines on this. One of the places that he does that is in 1 Corinthians 10, but it's a little...vague, to say the least. Essentially, Paul's teaching is this: if someone invites you to dinner, eat whatever is offered because food is just food and it's not going to poison you just because it was offered to an idol first. It doesn't change the flavor or the nutritional value. But if you've been invited to dinner and someone makes it a point to tell you that the food was offered to idols, then don't eat it.

Does it change the food if you have been warned that it's been offered to idols? Of course not. Then why does it matter now if you eat it, if it didn't matter before? It still won't defile you.

Because Paul's response to the concerns about food have nothing to do with food at all. It's not about what you eat or don't eat.

It's about who you're with.

If someone invites you to their home for a meal, it is because they value you and want you to come and be with them. So you eat whatever they offer you because it is a gift freely and blessedly given by someone who loves you and has created space in their home and their heart for you. To refuse to eat it would be damaging to the relationship, so whatever they offer you, eat. For it is not about the food.

But if they warn you that it has been offered to idols, then don't eat it...because it is still about the relationship. It is about someone who knows you so well that they know that you worship a different God and wants to be respectful of that. It's about someone who wants to create a space where you can be true to you. It's about someone who has invested in knowing what is important to you and made provision for that. To eat it, even out of respect for the host or deference, would be damaging to the relationship. It would tell them that it's not important to you that they care or worse, that you really aren't who they think you are. So if they warn you about the food, don't eat it. For it is still not about the food.

This is, and always has been, the highest law of Christianity. Not what you eat or don't eat, but how you treat those you're with - whether you've invited them over or they've invited you or you just happen to be sharing the same space. The Old Covenant, it was full of laws and rules and regulations. It was all about do's and don't's. The New Covenant, though, boils all that down to simple love. Love God, love people. And if you love people, you make your decisions by the relationship, not the principle. (Okay, there are some places where you obviously place God above men, but most of our encounters with one another don't fall into this category.)

How much easier would our lives be if we simply kept this rule in mind? What if we made all of our decisions by loving and being loved, not by making and keeping rules? What if we, like Jesus, made room in our laws for grace and lived by it? Because it's not about what you do or don't do; it's about who you're with.

Are you truly with the people in your life? Then eat or don't eat or whatever.

But love.

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