Meat issues – part three

Part 3/3 after a brief interlude!

I thought I would refrain from these personal reflections until after presenting the biblical views on disputable matters.

A matter of dress

I’ve been to some churches where everyone wears their Sunday best, and others where we routinely kicked off off our shoes and sat on the floor. I was amused then, when I was pulled aside by one of our “aunties” on my first weeks back, because hadn’t I heard the new rule? Flip flops were not allowed anymore! Perhaps I was less amused discovering how members scrutinised each other over the formality of clothes especially towards those who had ministries that involved standing in front of the congregation.

When I asked out of curiosity about the rationale behind the rule, I was told that we did not wear flip flops, or dress casually, because we wanted to respect God. Honestly I thought it was irrelevant what type of shoes we wore, because God looks at our hearts. Plus I doubted that any church elder would seriously enforced a rule against flip flops, in this city of endless summers. I did appreciate the intention to cultivate a respectful attitude in coming before God though, and agonise a bit more over my wardrobe choices on following occasions, out of respect for the people I stood before.

Each passing judgment on the other

I realised that in the same way that I may have been judged to not care about God or church, from my casual dress, I tended to be judgmental too towards the opposite group of people, for two main reasons. Firstly, I felt superior to those who I considered “weak” in being affected by such petty matters, or lacking understanding for raising the issue at all. In other words, I judged people for judging, if that makes sense. Secondly, whilst I didn’t judge people for not dressing well enough, I judged them for dressing too well. What is their intention? Are they trying to pick up? To show that they have money? Why are they overly concerned about their appearance? Truly, these are matters for God alone to judge.

Whilst dress is important, especially if it reflects a sinful or irreverent attitude within ourselves, thinking back to Romans 14, indeed the church can be divided, each with a proud heart that ungraciously passes judgment on the other. In doing so, the more important matter of unity in building God’s kingdom could be forgotten.

They are Pharisees!

One of the ways in which I judged people for judging, was that I immediately thought of Pharisees when I came across people who had “strict” rules on practicing godliness, whether that was on what they should wear, what foods they should avoid, what music to listen to, what friends they should associate with, and a host of other daily life issues (see Part 1). Specifically I remembered the many occasions on which Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” – Matthew 23:27-28 (also see the entirety of chapter 23)

Reflecting on the passage one day I was struck by how it wasn’t attempts to follow the law that Jesus criticised, but the undue emphasis on external holiness with a mismatch to hearts that was far from holy, far from God. I doubt Jesus would have commented on their hand washing habits, if these Pharisees had clean heart as well as clean hands. I saw then that I should not equate strict rules to hypocritical Pharisees, for believers had the freedom to not only partake in, but also refrain from what was permissible, out of a heart that honoured God.

Further reading:

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: Romans 14:1-12 , Don’t pass judgment

Got Questions? : What does the Bible say about eating food/meat that has been sacrificed to idols?

Ridley Melbourne: Disputable Matters

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One Comment

  1. Finally I finished the Meat Issues trilogy. I agree with most of your opinions. I think they follow the teaching of scripture. In fact, I also spent some time on pondering such matter before. Some of my ideas resonate with yours and your writing also allows me perceive the same questions from a different perspective. I did learn something from you. Nice work sister. I may try to write another review for this trilogy when I have time to share my own understanding.Now I am back to quack tails. Ha, I miss the story :)

    吃肉问题(3)

    对于这些争议性的问题,在强调圣经的观点之前,我想我会先保留自己的意见。

    穿着问题

    我去过一些教会,这些教会要求每个人在周日要穿最正式的服装。我也去过一些比较随便的教会,在那里我们可以很自然地把鞋脱掉并坐在地上。记得我第一次回来的那周,可能因为我不知道教会的新规定,我被一位阿姨拖到了一旁,她告诉我这里已经不允许穿人字拖了。对此我感到好笑。当我得知会友们互相审查着服装的同意,尤其是针对那些要站在会众前侍奉的会友,我并不觉得有多好笑。(“less amused”=觉得不好笑?)

    出于好奇心的缘故,我对这个规定背后的理由提出疑问。我得到的答复是:我们之所以不穿人字拖或穿着随便,是因为我们要尊敬我们的神。但老实说,我看不出这和我们穿什么鞋子有啥关系。因为神看的是我们的内心。更何况我不认为有哪个教会前辈会在这个无尽夏日的城市认真贯彻反对人字拖的规定。他们的动机是为了培养信徒对神有敬畏的态度,对此我表示欣赏。但我对于我衣柜里各种不同的选择则让我将面前的那些人的尊重放在了一边。(No ideas how to translate last sentence)

    每人都在论断其他人

    我意识到因为自己的便装,我可能也被人用同样的方式批判过,说我不关系神或教会。同时我也有意用论断的态度去对待那些意见和我相反的那群人。我的理由主要有两个。第一,对于那些在我看来软弱的的,易被那些琐事影响,或者对这类问题完全没有认知的,我有一种优越感。换句话说,我论断那些论断人的人,如果这符合情理的话。第二,在我没有因为别人穿着不好而论断他们的同时,我论断他们的穿着过分华丽。他们的动机是什么?他们是在炫耀吗(“pick up”=炫耀?)?是在炫耀他们多有钱?为什么他们过度的注重他们的外貌?的确,这些问题应该由神独自来审判。

    同时穿着是重要的,尤其是穿着反应出我们之间罪恶的或者不敬虔的态度。但回到罗马书14章就会发现,教会确实会因为一颗肆意论断他人的骄傲的心儿分裂。在这样的情况下,在合一中建立神的国这样更重要的事就容易被忘记。

    他们是法利赛人!

    我用来论断那些论断者的一个方法是,当我遇到在操练敬虔的问题上有“严格”规定的人,我会立刻想到法利赛人。不论他们的规定是关于该穿什么,不该吃什么,什么样的音乐不该听,什么样的朋友不该结交,还是日常生活中许多事(参第一部)。特别是我记得这些法利赛人曾多次被耶稣指责过。

    “你们这假冒伪善的文士和法利赛人有祸了!因为你们好像粉饰的坟墓,外面好看,里面却装满了私人的骨头和一切的误会。你们也是如此,在人前,外面先出公义来,里面却装满了假善和不法的事”—太23:27-28(也参考23章全章)

    某天在反思这段经文时我大吃一惊,原来耶稣在这里并不是批判他们试图遵守律法,而是批判他们过度重视表面的圣洁而没有与内心协调,使得他们远离真正的圣洁和上帝。我猜测如果这些法利赛人的心和他们的手一样干净,耶稣也会称赞他们洗手的习惯。我不应该将严格的规定和法利赛人等量齐观,因为信徒们怀着一颗敬畏神的心,他们有自由做和不做那些许可的事。

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