All Things to All Men

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #121

“Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor. 10:32-33).

We should start with the goal. Paul is seeking the salvation of many men; he is not playing for small change. Since they are the point of the mission, the one on the mission subordinates his own interests to the task. He seeks to please all men, and denies himself the pleasure of seeking his own profit, because he bends all his efforts toward this end.

The “all men” here encompasses all kinds—Jews, Gentiles, not to mention members of the church. This ties in with the point of his previous discussion. He is talking about cultural identity markers—dietary issues, ceremonial practices, and so on. When we are on their turf, we are to behave in a respectful way. No one should be able to say that we are being flamboyant and obnoxious for the sake of being obnoxious. You don’t take your BLT into the synagogue. You don’t swing your liberty around on the end of a rope.

At the same time, Paul says elsewhere that we should be at peace with all men so far as it depends upon us. This requirement to not give offense to Jews, Gentiles, or Christians is not an absolute. Obedience is absolute, but it is to God, and not to my own preferences. My own preferences must give way to the urgency of winning all kinds of men to Christ.

It Was a Fat Robin

“She was the kind of woman whose absolute support was freely and completely given, until it gave way like a saturated California hillside. Then it was mostly at the bottom with a car or two underneath. The final event that would cause the hillside to give way might be completely trivial — perhaps a robin landing too heavily — but once the business was underway, well, it was all mostly at the bottom. Chad had clearly and unmistakably lied to her daughter. This was a breach of trust not to be endured. It was clear. It was unambiguous. It was a fat robin.” (Evangellyfish, p. 181).

Eating the Bag Itself

This morning I sent out a link to what I called an edifying food rant, which you can read here. Having done so, I thought it might be good for me to summarize a few basic observations about food and the modern Christian. This is by no means exhaustive, but it should give the lay of the land. This is why this subject is of such major concern to me.

The basic food law for Christians is love. The basic food law for Christians is that of reducing friction to table fellowship. Adding diet barriers increases potential points of friction. Whenever diet barriers are necessary for medical reasons (as they often are), we should work with them, of course. But we should all recognize what our shared goal should be — free table fellowship, for all Christians, in every direction. Two Christians, with completely different brown bag lunches, should be able to laugh and talk together over those lunches, even though one bag is filled with food that is full of pure thoughts and the healthiest thing to do with the other lunch would be to eat the bag itself.

Whenever I write about food, which I am constrained pastorally to do, one of the standard dismissive responses that I see in comments and web chatter is that I am not educated on the subject, that I have not read the right studies, etc. But I am not making these observations as a food expert (though I am reasonably well-read on the subject). I am making these observations as someone who has been studying people in depth for four decades or so. I couldn’t recognize gluten under a microscope to save my soul, but I can recognize monkey-see-monkey-do when I see it. I do know how to identify a young woman with daddy issues that are all heaped up on her nearly empty plate. I know what food wowserism looks like. I can recognize a green produce pecksniffian. I know what a moralistic crusade looks like.

For those whose food choices are different from mine, and who are not doing these weird people things, then I am quite prepared to bless God for every one of their menu choices. Honestly. But to appeal to that great Seinfeld line — “People! They’re the worst!”

So the issue is the people, never the food. Jesus declared all food, as such, clean. He didn’t just declare what I like clean. He declared the following clean — sun-dried raisins, bacon, clam chowder, tofu, GMOs, Wonder bread, Grape-Nuts, and the yogurt, strawberries and granola I just had for breakfast. When the food is just food, and God is thanked for it, and there are no hidden ideological agendas, I couldn’t care less what my brother eats. I wouldn’t dream of taking him to a restaurant and ordering for him. And when he orders, I wouldn’t dream of turning up my nose at his choice, saying, “You know, studies have shown . . .” Okay, I might say something if he ordered grits with shrimp, but only in a jolly, comradery way.

As one sage has said, knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in the fruit salad. This principle of knowledge and wisdom applies to more than just tomatoes.