Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If you do these things you will do well

Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates, and they sent them to Antioch of Syria with Paul and Barnabas to report on this decision. The men chosen were two of the church leaders—Judas (also called Barsabbas) and Silas. This is the letter they took with them:
“This letter is from the apostles and elders, your brothers in Jerusalem. It is written to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. Greetings!
“We understand that some men from here have troubled you and upset you with their teaching, but we did not send them! So we decided, having come to complete agreement, to send you official representatives, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are sending Judas and Silas to confirm what we have decided concerning your question.
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.”  Acts 15:22-29

It amazes me that of all the laws written in the books of Moses, the Holy Spirit told the early church elders (and the Pharisees within the early church) that these were the only portion of the Law the Gentile Church needed to obey. Even more amazing, most of these restrictions are food related. Food is always important to God, it seems. Food has power. And now with modified foods where sugar, caffeine, and other things that control our minds are added to our foods, we really understand how a fruit such as the fruit of the tree of knowledge could be mutagenic (so much so that it could cause man to die) and eye-opening (and not merely hallucinogenic as some substances like poppies and nutmeg are.)

But even more more amazing, these laws which Paul and the early apostles and elders considered so so so important, aren't laws that most Christians today obey.

Okay, so let's see:
1) No eating of foods offered to idols. Eating together is often a covenant. I'm thinking that if one thinks of Allah -- the Islamic God-- as an idol...then one should not eat halal foods or foods blessed by priests of religions one doesn't believe in. Now I'm wondering if I should eat foods blessed at some of the most extreme ecumenical dinners.

2) No eating of blood. This doesn't mean not eating any animals, I think. Because God allows meat. Some Christian vegetarians will probably ask, "How can one eat meat without blood?" (They ask this rhetorically.) But I suppose one can always soak out the blood if one wishes. The thing is God gave the Israelites a list of clean and unclean animals. They had to eat lamb for Passover for instance. And lambs have blood last time I looked. So this prohibition probably has to do with the verse "the life of the body is in the blood." In the blood is where the spirit lives, in the blood is where the demonic lives. That is why there are so many stories about "memories" when there are organ transplants. It's often best to pray over blood transfusions when we get someone else's blood. Yeah, i know...flaky talk but hey... there are so many anecdotes out there. True, odd, little stories. So where there is smoke, there is fire.

3) Keeping away from foods that have been strangled. I'm not up on what chemical stuff happens in the body of an animal when it is strangled but hey if God warns against this kind of food...we should take heed.

4) Abstain from fornication and sexual immorality. Well, this is obvious. Not only does sexual immorality bring all sorts of grief and make lives and emotions messy but it enables also sort of demonic activity in the lives of the sexually immoral. But Christians are generally way immoral. (They often say "God will forgive it.) The list of sexually immoral relationships can be found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. They include the well-known such as homosexuality, adultery, incest...and the not so well-known such as not making love to someone who has already made love with your siblings, descendants, or ancestors.

So... I wonder.... if we set our hearts to do these things, will we do well?

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