Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Halal Food (5) Thyratira

Jesus gave a similar warning to the Church at Thyatira.

You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and eating of food sacrificed to idols (Rev 2:20).
The key word in this passage is “misleads.” The NKJV has “seduces” and the NASB has “leads astray”. This woman was also seducing Christians and leading them into sin. In some way, which is not clear, she was getting them into a situation where they would face temptation that they were not strong enough to resist. Although, the Christians in Thyatira were strong in faith and service, some were falling into sin. Jezebel was encouraging them to do things which were not sinful, but which would be dangerous for Christians who had recently come out of them.

The issue of food and idolatry is well explained in 1 Corinthians 10. Paul describes the history of Israel as a warning from which we should learn. He then warns us to be careful about falling into temptation, because we will all face it.
If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall (v.12)
No Christian is so mature or strong that they cannot fall into temptation.
The key verse in the chapter is v 23.
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me but not all things edify (NKJV).
There are some things that are not sinful, but they are dangerous, so a wise Christian will avoid them. A Christian can go into a pagan temple and pray against the spiritual forces without sinning. However, if the Christian is not fully free from those forces, it can be dangerous. The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons. A person who was previously in bondage to them, might be unwise to go back into their presence. They should follow Paul’s advice flee from idolatry.

Food offered to idols fits into this category. In the ancient world eating meat that had been sacrificed in a pagan temple was an integral part of the religion of the day. The New Testament was addressed to people who had come out of these religions. Eating the meat that came from these temples was not sinful. However, for some Christians going back to one of these temples and eating meat (perhaps for a social function) could be the start of their falling away from new life in Christ. They would be better to stay away from these places.

Similarly, eating meat that has been halal killed is not sinful for most Christians, as it would not entice them into further sin. This is especially true if it cannot be distinguished from other meat in the butcher’s window. However, for Christians who have been converted from Islam, it might be the first step back into the legalism (and the spiritual forces) of their old religion. Eating meat that has been halal killed is not sinful, but it may not always be helpful or edifying.

If the Book of Revelation were being written today, it would make the same point about watching television. Watching television is not sinful, but it is one of the forces at the heart of the modern sinful world. For some Christians it can be very harmful, as it entices and seduces them into sin. In our world, halal killed meat is not harmful, whereas television leads many astray and some have fallen.

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