“I’m smoking three racks of pork ribs for our party!”
I was excited to share the lunch menu for the celebration I was planning for my company. However, instead of the usual unanimous enthusiastic responses, there was one dissenter.
“Uh, Doctor…I no longer eat meat.”
“Excuse me?” I thought he was joking. ”You love my ribs!”
“I do, but I became a vegetarian.”
“And…are you happy?” I still thought he was setting me up for a joke. We had previously feasted on smoked lamb, chicken, and prime rib and he had never raised an objection.
“Yes…” he hesitated. “I know it is healthier for me.” His serious visage alerted me that he was telling me the truth.
“I see.” I frowned and opened the Bible app on my cell phone. “You know there is a passage in the Bible that really addresses this issue.” I found the passage and read it to him.
One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.
Romans 14:2 (ESV)
I sternly looked at him. “I don’t want you to be weak!”
We erupted in laughter since we both knew I was teasing him by quoting this Bible verse out of context. When the Apostle Paul wrote this verse, he was addressing the issue of Christian believers eating all types of meats, that were previously forbidden under Jewish dietary laws. Jesus Christ declared that all meats were clean to eat. However, there were still some believers who were weaker in their faith and not completely trusting in God’s promises, eating only vegetables and avoiding these meats. It was not an accusation that their vegetarian diets were making them physically weak, it was an encouragement that they needed to broaden and enlarge their faith and trust God’s Word and revelation.
I frequently hear or read of people taking liberty with Bible verses, quoting them out of historical or literary context. For example, the Bible states, “There is no God.“ This is true but when the entire verse is read in context, the intended meaning is obvious.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.
Psalms 14:1 (ESV)
This simple example is carelessly repeated with numerous other Bible passages. Admittedly, some examples are not as egregiously bad as the one I cited. Similar to the passage from Romans that I took out of context, a knowledge of the events and traditions of the day are necessary to properly interpret some passages. The Bible is the Word of God and should be read and interpreted with the same principles by which we read any work of literature. If one does this with the intention to learn the absolute Truth and the meaning of life, God promises that He will reveal Himself to the one who is truly seeking Him.
I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
Proverbs 8:17 (ESV)
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.