Some questions have recently been asked of me in the comment strings of certain posts, questions which I have, we all have, both fielded and asked at various points in our lives, and many of us are still asking. While these aren't necessarily foundational issues to our faith, I think the search for answers is always compelling, even when we come up empty. Growth is a beautiful thing, and hopefully we're all still growing. I'm going to condense some of these questions down, examine scripture where it speaks to the issues, offer personal opinions, and when I don't know the answers, boldly go where human ego doesn't like to go and say "I don't know." I encourage others from all walks to chime in with their own perspectives in the comment string, and I'll stay out of it as much as possible. This will likely be a series of posts in the coming weeks. In this post I'll be dealing with two...
Is it wrong to celebrate "secular" holidays?
This is an issue that I fear has been swallowed up in the fundamentalist cultural war. The same happened to the Sabbath - an issue which Christ addressed in Matthew 12, Mark 2, and Luke 6. The Pharisees had done to the Sabbath what they'd done to so much of the rest of the Law, twisting it with their own heartless interpretation, desirous of a Sabbath observed how THEY saw fit. They wanted to appear religious about it, all while using it as a weapon of war.
My ex-fiancee's family didn't celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. They felt it was pagan. SHE didn't, mind you, but she didn't really have options. They didn't exchange gifts at Christmas. Instead, Valentine's Day was the day they observed for gift-giving. I thought it was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard of. Doing the same thing as the rest of us, just 7 weeks later, almost as a means of thumbing their noses at "the Man" that is western society and culture for it's terrible treatment of the Lord's birth. It's like an attempt to make a sacred cow out of a billy goat. Somehow, I don't think Christ is offended by the exchanges of gifts on December 25th, the commercialism that takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the TV specials, the "Happy Holidays" greetings. Christians, attempting to speak where He's silent, are the ones who seem the most riled by it all. For most of the people celebrating Christmas, Christ isn't even a part of their lives, nor are they bilking His name for anything. It's just an occasion to give gifts, get together with friends and family, eat turkey and Mom's sweet potato casserole, and enjoy themselves. Personally, I've no need to deprive them of that just so I can be right in the cultural debate about how Godless, greedy, and selfish western society is.
As far as I'm concerned and as long as I have a say in the matter, there's gonna be a tree up (with a train circling the bottom of it) and my house is gonna smell like brownies on Christmas day. Christ will be right there with me the whole time.
Heck, no big fuss was made about Birthdays in the scripture, and Jewish society only made a fuss when a boy turned 13 and a girl 12. Yet...Even the most fundamental among us celebrate Birthdays. Now, if it were "National Get Drunk and Go Nuts Day", sure, I can see a follower of Christ taking a pass on that celebration, even though I can easily see Christ heading down to the parade to check it all out. Sounds exactly like the kind of people He visited with.
Are Christians bound by scriptural dietary laws?
The scripture that probably speaks the most directly to this issue is Acts 10. While many think that the vision which Peter had was a metaphor pertaining only to extending the gospel to the Gentiles, I tend to believe that it spoke to the larger issue of all that had previously been considered "unclean". Paul's message in Colossians 2 would seem to very strongly support the broader view. Christ tells us in Matthew 15:11 that what goes in our mouth doesn't defile us, but rather what comes out.
I've never been a big seafood eater, so needless to say, crab or lobster have never been foods that I'm into...but, let me emphasize, not for any spiritual reasons. I love country cookin'. If I ever write my memoirs, the title will be "Gimme Something Fried". Had some good pork chops tonight (with some greens and some yellow rice...dang, I might need to go fire up the microwave right now), had a BLT a couple of nights ago, and sometimes do the breakfast-for-supper thing with bacon and grits. If eating pork sends people to Hell, I'll end up the Mayor of the place at the rate I'm going. Not a big health food guy, unless you consider hamburger steaks (which are, IMO, nature's perfect food) a health food. I'm not keen on eating twigs, acorns, and tree bark just so I can squeeze out a few more years of eating twigs, acorns, and tree bark. If the Lord tarries, none of us can cheat our reckoning with the clock, so find joy where God provides it.
I'm all for people eating what they enjoy eating. If your health dictates a certain diet, by all means adhere to it. While we can't cheat death, there's no need to speed it up. If you have no health concerns but simply prefer healthy food, more power to ya. If you like shellfish, dig in and enjoy.
I think the most important thing to remember about issues like this is: The bible, as it applies to those of us in Christ, isn't a book of rules and regulations. It's a book of discipline and moderation - in all areas of our lives.