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PASTOR’S CORNER: Setting the record straight on eating pork

I hate to burst the bubbles that people have blown up for themselves, but when those bubbles contain scriptural misconceptions, I feel compelled to speak up.

Here’s one bubble many of us have kept afloat for years: pork is a no-no for the people of God. The bubble is supported by the Old Testament dietary law found in Leviticus 11:7, 8.

In that passage, God describes pork as “unclean” and commands Israel “of their flesh shall ye not eat.” That sounds rather final and if we stop there we would surely be justified in eliminating pork from our diets. That is what many of us have done without reading New Testament scriptures on this issue of diet.

When Jesus brought us the New Covenant, he also brought changes to the Old Covenant’s dietary laws which we find in three passages: Acts 10:9-16, 1Timothy 4:4, 5 and Romans 14:4. Through God’s vision to Peter described in Acts 10, God clearly declared all he created to be clean and good for food, including pork.

Paul further enlightens us in 1Timothy 4 with these words: “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Up to this point, scripture appears to teach us that pork, beef, lamb, fish, Cornish hen and all of God’s other creatures are clean and edible, under certain conditions.

But what about those laws that say the opposite. Do they still operate in the lives of believers or has the new covenant repealed them, even though they remain in the word of God? And if we consume pork, have we sinned in the presence of God and will we be held accountable in eternity?

Fortunately, Paul solves this apparent conflict for us in Romans 14. Here’s his take on the issue.

“I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is no thing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” In this text, Paul identified the source of his position in 1Timothy. He was not sharing a personal opinion. He was “persuaded” by the Lord Jesus himself that all of God’s creatures are clean.

The rest of the verse frees us from strict obedience to the dietary laws in Leviticus. We have a choice. Whatever we believe to be unclean is in fact unclean and we can, if we chose to do so, refuse to include it in our diets. The opposite is also true; we can accept all that God created as clean, good and edible, with no fear of transgressing the laws of God. But, there are conditions.

All animal and plant life was created for human consumption, and according to 1Timothy 4, is “sanctified” or set apart for that purpose by the word of God and prayer. So before taking a bite of that pork chop, receive it with thanksgiving and prayer. Meet the conditions, trust God and his word and enjoy. But don’t overdo it. Too much of anything can be detrimental to one’s health.

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church. Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles. 

Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website,