August 13, 2016
1 Corinthians 10:16-29 raise the question of whether the Christian can eat halal meat (i.e. halal is a term used in Islamic law to designate as acceptable to consume any food or drink which has been prepared properly according to their laws). What do we do when we see that little label on our chocolate or on the fast food meal or on the meat from the butcher? Furthermore, can we have a meal with someone from another faith?
Starting in verse 16, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” So the first point is that the Christian already has a participation with God, through Christ, on the basis of his, that’s Jesus’, sacrifice. Communion is our participation in the cross. It reminds us of our dying, rising and now living with Jesus. It was on the cross that the spiritual authorities are shamed and triumphed over (Colossians 2:13-15) and now, the communion table is a meal that matters but it is not an idol feast. Why? Because it’s a meal that brings to mind a sacrifice that counts. The bread and wine are not like the meat offered to an idol. We don’t offer a sacrifice to please a god as the Romans did. Jesus was offered for you once for all time and his sacrifice still speaks. We don’t offer a sacrifice for God’s approval, Jesus was the sacrifice for our approval before God. And he is alive, showing the completeness of what he has done. Jesus’ sacrifice of his body and blood gives us something we could never achieve on our own: true communion with God and participation (or fellowship) in the life that he has won for us through the cross.
Then over in 1 Corinthians 10:25-27, we read, “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.”
Now halal meat simply means meat that has been properly slaughtered, so it’s permissible to eat, for that faith. The slaughtering of the meat doesn’t turn the eating of that meat into an act of worship.
Second, Paul is very clear in saying that it’s okay to eat the food, as long as no one is offended or will be lead to sin. Back up in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Paul stresses to the Corinthians that If their eating of meat would cause someone who has formerly been associated with idols or other gods to be lead into sin or if it would cause them to stumble in their faith, then I must show restraint. Verses 7 and 10 say, “Some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?” The issue isn’t about whether someone dislikes you doing it and would never themselves participate. Rather, it centres on whether what you are doing would cause another believer to fall into sin. If it would, then I mustn’t do it, and instead I must put their wellbeing above my own freedom in Christ. This is what it looks like to love another believer and to seek the unity that we have in Christ – something the Corinthians weren’t doing.
But, here, in chapter 10, it’s not longer what you eat, it’s now a heart and worship issue.
So if you’re at a meal, and someone says that this meal we are to eat is now going to become an act of worship, and if they make it clear that when you eat this, you are now worshipping their god or any other faith’s god for that matter, then, we should politely say no I can’t do that. Why? Because it’s now about your participating with this sacrifice as worship to a god who is not Jesus. That’s the issue and that’s the prohibition Paul lays down.
This means that yes, you can eat halal foods with your neighbour or any other faith that prepares their meat in any way. The Christian is free to do this because the meat doesn’t defile you. What you eat can never defile you (Matthew 15:17–20). But, on the grounds of conscience, what you eat can cause another belier to dive into sin. And we shouldn’t use our freedom to lead another to sin.
It is also good to remember that the freedom we have in Christ is truly wonderful. We can eat any food, or not, without having to have it prepared in a certain way because the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it. What a wonderful Father we have that everything in the world does belong to him and that we are free to enjoy it! We don’t need to subscribe to certain food laws for Jesus to accept us. It was his sacrifice that secures our freedom. And Christianity breaks down barriers to people by giving us freedom to go into their world, their homes, their market places and, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19, to be all things to all people so as to win some to Jesus. And it gives us a limit, to say no, when there would be worship and participation with another god.