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Understanding modern vegetarianism and veganism in the Jewish and Christian contexts. It is right to kill and eat animals or use them in ceremonies?  

Loving God-Eating Meat

Over the past couple decades, we've seen a huge increase in the number of Christians who feel it's a sin to kill and eat meat.  Some have expressed serious doubt about a God who would approve the slaughter and use of animals for food and for religious ritual.  Because of this, it's important for us to be familiar with the history of God's people, meat-eating, and God's eternal economy.  This article will examine the Hebrew and Christian traditions concerning eating animals, what might be driving the whole idea today and where it might fit in God's eternal perspective...a lot for one article.

Why Is Eating Meat Bad Now?

Many modern societies have adopted an Eastern philosophy, elevating animals, even insects, to equal status with humans.  This is the thinking behind much vegetarianism and veganism...instead of eating plants for health, people are doing it out of religious belief.  This thinking has permeated our governments, schools, and many churches.  Of course, much can be said for the idea that we don't need as much meat as we're eating, or that eating more vegetables would be better for us, but the people we're discussing actually consider killing and eating animals as an offense akin to murder.  It's difficult to reason with someone caught up in the emotions over a furry little animal, so, suffice it to say that we cannot survive without killing something, just as every animal does.  The difference is, they just kill and eat, as God designed them.  

The Hebrew Tradition:

God designed us in the same way.  From Noah, on, God gave us "Everything that lives and moves" as food.  The life blood of the animals, however, was considered sacred and could not be eaten.  In this way, God's followers honored the life that was given for their food and the life-giver, God.  After Moses, God's people were called to make animal sacrifices and offerings to Him, as a matter of Law.  Without the life blood of animals, people could not approach God, because they were purified by the blood.  The fat portions of animals burnt on the alter were considered very special, "an aroma pleasing to God."  The blood of the lamb caused the angel of death to "pass over" the homes of God's people, and save their lives when they were leaving Egypt.  In the Hebrew tradition, it isn't that animals were thought so little of they were killed and burnt up...just the opposite.  Animals were accorded great respect and reverence, because they were the means of atonement between man and God.

The Christian Tradition:

With the death of Jesus on the cross, we no longer need the blood of bulls and goats to atone for our sins.  Instead, the blood of one unblemished lamb, Jesus, was shed once, for all.  Shortly thereafter, God removed the restrictions between clean and unclean meats, allowing Christians to enjoy eating any animal as a blessing from God.  Even eating meat sacrificed to idols, which was considered sin by some, was allowed anyone as long as they didn't feel it was a sin.  The blood of the sacrifice was replaced with the wine (or grape juice) of communion.  Christians could eat anything placed before them with a clean conscience.  Passover has become Easter, a ceremony containing much death, replaced by the celebration of a resurrected life.  Killing the fatted calf was always the beginning of celebration, not guilt.     

Christians Loving God And Eating Meat:

Throughout all of history, what God has given us to eat has always been a special blessing, whether animal, fish or plant.  We honor God by thanking Him for what we've been given and by sharing it with others.  It's always struck me as a sort of anti-thankfulness to try to replace the celebration of God's bounty with guilt over a life lost.  For one thing, if we believe in God, we believe He is eternal, loving, and good.  It isn't in His nature to permit us to kill and eat something if it were wrong or immoral to do so.  Since He created everything that is and He operates in an eternal economy, some things are best left to Him to resolve...this is one of them, the need for us to survive on the death of something else.  Besides, where do you think we got this love for all the animals and plants in creation?  He gave it to us the same time He charged us with the responsibility to care for creation.

As to those people who feel harmed by our freedom to eat anything, we need to treat them with a special love, and do nothing in front of them which causes them to be alienated from God.  The vegetarian and vegan Christians, just as those who thought meat sacrificed to idols was forbidden to Christians, are those with weaker faith, who temporarily need religious rules to support them.  While we can't allow them to restrict our faith with those rules, God forbid we put a stumbling block in their path.  We can exercise our liberty and enjoy God's bounty in private, while we pray for them to discover the words of Christ, "It isn't what you put in your mouth that causes you to sin."  He is the Lamb which was sacrificed to give everyone abundant life.  His resurrection tells us that physical death isn't the end we think it is...maybe not even for the animals.

How do you worship God with your food?

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