Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21, Numbers 15:37–41 (read online ⧉)
According to some people, bacon deserves its own food group. There is a somewhat true adage, cook bacon and the men will come. Sad, but true. A mercifully short culinary path was bacon everything: bacon mints, bacon gum, bacon ice cream, bacon shaped bandages, bacon jelly beans. Pretty much the bacon theme was done. And some of it was just disgusting. In Israelite (and subsequent Jewish) culture/religion, pigs were unclean animals. They weren’t to be eaten. There is a lot of speculation as to why pigs were prohibited. One of the theories revolves around a particular parisite that was common in pigs (and is still an issue today to a far lesser degree). Another theory is that pigs are, effectively, scavengers. They eat pretty much anything. That has its own health issues. Scavengers and bottom feeders (think shellfish) were also prohibited food. A slightly off-the-beaten-path theory is that pigs are so easy to raise for food, that sheep (and other clean animals) were a physical manifestation of God’s blessings of the Israelites.
The Shema Yisrael (this collection of today’s passages) isn’t about bacon or pork, or even food. It is about a relationship with God. The tassels (Numbers 15:27) were another physical manifestation of a person declaring their loyalty to God. By their food (or lack of particular kinds) and clothing, they displayed that they were in relationship and fellowship with God. We focus a lot on the “rules” in the Old Testament. Yet, the rules were never the point. The rules were actually the sign that the Israelites loved God more than other gods, cultures, nations, or tribes. They were to show that God was more important to them than anything or anyone else.
The Christian world is a mixed bag when it comes to obeying the food laws of the Old Testament. Certain traditions hold to some of them. Some hold to a “Garden of Eden” level. Most of the Christian world, however, does not view the Old Testament dietary laws as binding. Of course, while perhaps not viewing them as binding, they look at them as guidelines and will try to follow them to some degree. So, no bacon for you.
If you don’t like bacon, that’s easy for you. However, it isn’t about the bacon. It’s about the relationship. In the Christian circle, even among those the food adherents, that is the recognized reality. Even in the Roman Catholic church (often being accused about being more about law than grace) acknowledges and teaches that relationship is primary. It’s not as if rules and practices are bad, quite the contrary. It is the reason between the practices and rules that is important: love of God.
1) How do rules affect and influence relationships between people?
2) If, through prayer, God revealed that you had to never eat your favorite food again (even bacon), what would you do? Why? Would you struggle?
3) Bacon can also provide an allegory to our spiritual life. Something that God forbade one, may have not forbidden another. How do you interact with people whose forbidden thing (alcohol, pot, smoking, pork, movies, etc.) is different than yours? What is your forbidding thing or things?