You want me to eat what?

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2019

By Charles Qualls

My parents bought a young calf once, and added him to our herd when I was about 7 or 8. He was a red-and-white little fellow. We played with him and named him Richard. He ended up growing into a nice-sized little steer.

One day, when he was a little over a year old we noticed that all the rest of the herd was still there in the pasture. Except for Richard. My brother, being older than me, knew a few things. He speculated based on a conversation he had overheard, that Richard might have been taken to the local butcher.

I took things pretty matter-of-factly. I was sad, but tried to wrap my mind around this demonstration of the circle of life. One night a couple of weeks later, my mother announced that we would be eating supper in 5 minutes. We boys were to wash our hands and be seated at the table.

Our mother said we would be having a favorite Italian-ish thing she made sometimes. It involved ground beef, large noodles and a red sauce all cooked together. She brought an arm-full of plates toward the table and began walking around the table putting them down at our places. As she placed the last plate of food in front of me, I asked, “Oh … is this Richard?!”

To this day, I can picture my mother reacting. She never stopped walking, but instead made a second lap around the table. She picked back up every plate and I heard, “You boys get your shoes on and be ready to get in the car.” We dined out that night. Later we also got a lecture that from now on, if our parents brought home a pig or a calf and told us not to name it, we’d better not make friends with it!

There are some things you and I don’t like to eat or drink. We just never develop a taste for them. They are personal preferences, they are food allergies maybe. There are other things that we are just plain not supposed to eat. The list may vary medically, regionally, culturally or religiously.

Our Scripture from Acts 11: 1-18 tells a powerful story that challenged Peter’s friends and us alike. There were kosher items for them to eat. There were also non-kosher ones, and they were to be avoided.

Back in chapter 10, the episode that Peter described had played out. The apostles and Jews with him there in Caesarea saw the whole thing for themselves. They got it. His fellow Jews in Judea heard about it, though, and just couldn’t get their minds around it all. Once he got to Jerusalem, they worked Peter over pretty good about it.

Peter began to explain to them how God had worked in his life and had caused him to view things differently. There was this one prevailing notion in the vision that gripped Peter even above his own orthodox past. “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

Hopefully, as we mature as Christians we’ve all got some version of this story we could tell. Oh, we might need to change out the issue. Let’s substitute an attitude we used to have about something we thought made someone else a sinner, but over time God showed us that it was really our culture that had made that particular thing a “sin” more so than God.

Here’s a big one for us. What if the issue that kept us from fellowshipping with others really was a sin according to the Bible? But God showed us that it’s the fellowshipping, the loving and inclusion of them that’s more important than our judgment of them is. Besides, what if God showed us that those folks we think are such sinners are having to tolerate something we do that’s just as sinful, and maybe more so?

I grew up about as legal minded on sin, and as judgmental as they came. That stuff was important to me. I have become convinced that in the Kingdom of God, Jesus, Peter and the other Apostles were trying to tell us something. The fellowship in Christ is THE most important thing.

I think if you have to choose between damaging each other over the rules of faith versus giving some grace, always choose grace. If you have to choose between the costs of judgmentalism versus the love of someone that draws them closer to God, choose love!

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.