Posted in theology

Lent, food rules, and liberty

By Elizabeth Prata

Romans 14:13-23, about food may seem archaic, because Christians have been released from Hebrew food rules for 2000 years. But food rules have been going strong in the Catholic faith for equally as long. For Catholics who come to saving faith and become Christian, their lifetime of food rules, especially during Lent, may still have a hold on them. So let’s explore how we can help the brethren who may be struggling with the food issue, as Paul advised.

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We are in the height of the Catholic 40-day 2023 Lenten season, which began February 22 and will extend through April 6. Catholics are obligated to perform fasting and abstinence (as well as acts of piety and charity) as acts of penance during Lent. And not just during Lent, but “Even outside of Lent, the bishops in the U.S. still exhort the faithful to observe all Fridays as days of penance in recognition of Friday as the day of our Lord’s death and in preparation for the heavenly banquet at Sunday Masssays this page from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops about Lenten Regulations.

The exact rules for a Catholic about fasting and abstinence vary from continent to continent.

The US Catholic Bishops explain the reason for explicit rules about food. It is because,

Humanity’s “Fall” away from God and into sin began with eating.  God had proclaimed a fast from the fruit of only one tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17), and Adam and Eve broke it.  Fasting is here connected with the very mystery of life and death, of salvation and damnation.” (Source)

So, food rules figure prominently for the Catholic. in the United States. Rule #1 in the US is that during Lent, everyone age 18 and older is to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent and Good Friday. Hence, many Roman Catholics eat fish on Fridays.

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Everyone age 18 and up to their 59th birthday is obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On these days, the Catholic is allowed to eat only 1 full meal. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards“, says the USCCB.

There are similar rules for a person who had been of the Eastern Orthodox persuasion, as well.

Therefore when a Roman Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox person converts to Christianity, they may well have impressed on their conscience for many years the fasting and abstinence rules. When they come to the verses that all foods are clean, it may be hard to overcome their bound conscience and accept these verses-

However, not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food will not commend us to God. We neither lack if we do not eat, nor abound if we do eat. (Romans 8:7-8).

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There are no rules for the Catholic person requiring them to “give up” something for Lent, but the people are encouraged to do so, in order to be ‘mourning their sins by denying themselves something they enjoy’ and ‘to train themselves to resist temptation’.

Therefore, Christian,

For if because of food your brother is grieved, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:15)

The paragraphs in 1 Corinthians 8 about food sacrificed to idols Romans 14 are explained by Warren Wiersbe:

Christians affect each other (vv. 13–15). Note the possible ways we can affect each other. We can cause others to stumble, grieve others, or even destroy others. Paul was speaking of the way the strong Christian affected the weak Christian. Paul dealt with a similar problem in 1 Corinthians 8–9, where the question was, “Should Christians eat meat that has been offered to idols in heathen temples?” There he pointed out that knowledge and love must work together. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1, NIV). The strong Christian has spiritual knowledge, but if he does not practice love, his knowledge will hurt the weak Christian. Knowledge must be balanced by love.”

Source- Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 560). Victor Books.

So, dear reader, knowledge combined with flaunted liberty might actually hurt the weaker sister. Many false religions have food rules. Hindus may not eat beef according to their religion. Seventh Day Adventists follow a strict lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. Meat, fish, poultry, alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine are prohibited. Islam has halal, which means certain foods must be prepared a certain way before they are considered acceptable to eat. If you are in a sphere with a former Catholic or any other recent convert where their life was dominated by food rules, please be the stronger sister and resist flaunting our liberty in Christ where it comes to food.

Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. (Romans 14:20-21).

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Love week essay #4: Hooked on a Feeling?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here are some famous songs about love for you!

All You need is Love
I Wanna Know What Love Is
Love Stinks
Can’t Help Falling in Love
Addicted to Love
Can’t Hurry Love
I Will Always Love You
Love is A Battlefield
I Just Called to Say I Love You
I Think I Love You
Psalm 136

Wait, wut? Psalm 136? Yes! It is a tremendous song about God’s steadfast love. I wrote about it in Love Week essay #1, here.

The world tries to understand love but the world never will know it unless that seeking person is saved by grace through faith. When we abide in Jesus we can then know love. (1 John 4:8).

Still the world sings songs and wonders where it all went. All too often, We’ve Lost that Loving Feeling and wonder what to do After the Love is Gone.

We must understand that love is not a feeling, but a position, a decision.

Author Mary Kaasian says in her essay Love is a Choice,

 Although it is often felt in the heart, love is primarily an act of the will. Nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than in the way God loves us. In the Old Testament, two Hebrew words describe God’s love for his people. The first Hebrew word for love, ahab, means: “to desire, to breathe after; to be inclined toward, to delight in.”  The Lord God delights in us and is inclined toward us. He desires–“breathes after”–us with affectionate (ahab) love. Although Ahab is an intense word, it’s only used a handful of times with regard to the Lord. There’s another richer, more powerful word that’s used repeatedly throughout Old Testament Scripture to describe God’s love for us: the Hebrew word chesed.

Chesed speaks of a love that is firmly rooted in choice. It involves loyalty, steadfastness and commitment to a promise. It’s a love that doesn’t depend on the response or behavior of the receiver but rather on the steadfast character and commitment of the giver. Ahab has to do with feelings, whereas chesed implies a mind-set and mode of interaction based on unwavering loyalty to a commitment.

The world will tell us (in its songs) that we are slaves to our feeling of love. We’re hooked on a feeling, addicted to love, finding or losing that feeling. That it makes us Crazy, Fools, and love even has its own Power.

All that makes Love its own god.

Only God has as much power as pagans think love has.

We don’t love the way the world loves. We who are saved have the ability to remain loving in the Christ-like way because it’s a choice in which the power of God in us through the Holy Spirit allows us to persevere. The Gentiles fall in and out of love, find it and lose it, wax and wane within it, because feelings are ephemeral, temporary, and deceptive.

The only love that endures in a pagan is self-love.

A Christian’s love is counter-cultural to the world because the Bible teaches us to consciously deny our self-love and focus our love on others, even unto death. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:43-45-

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Christian marriage between one man and one woman is a major way that God wants to demonstrate His kind of love in the world. He demonstrates in the picture of marriage, the counter-cultural, upside down attitude toward love wherein it becomes a choice and not a snare. When marriages endure through the act of the will and not fail or succeed because we’re reflexively responding to a feeling, it’s His way and not the world’s way.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.a 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body.

Wives, submitting? Husbands loving, even unto death? Yes, because we are members of His body. The Gentile is cut off from His body and therefore thinks that love is a feeling, when it is actually a choice.

Love well today, on this Hallmark holiday exalting the world’s version of love. Love as Jesus taught, which is  a choice toward others, sacrificial, permanent. Love your friends, wives love husbands and husbands love your wives, love your children, and love your enemies. Because love isn’t a feeling, it’s a permanent choice in Christ.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:7-9).