The Pig: Should Christians Eat Pork?
I never realized until a few days ago there are some denominations in Christianity who steer clear away from eating pork. Is there any wrong in eating pork? Not at all! Are they justified not to eat pork? No! But also, Yes! So, what is the problem? The problem is in regards to how you feel about this issue, that is, your sense of right and wrong or conviction towards eating it.
Before we look at scriptures, let’s first of all look at this animal called pig.
Nature and Characteristics of Pig
There are two main reasons why some denominations don’t eat pork. The first one concerns the law the Israelite were given not to eat certain animals. The second one is the behavior of this animal.
Many people believe pigs are dirty animals. Even if you wash them they will return to dirt. It looks as if pigs enjoy being dirty than clean. Is this true? According to Ezine Articles this is not the case. In the article, ‘Pig Characteristics and Traits – Understanding Their Behavior Will Help You To Take Care of Pigs,’ it is noted by Sarah F. Brown, “One of the distinct pig characteristics is their cleanliness. Contrary to other people’s belief, pigs are generally clean animals. This is shown by their choice of toilet far away from their food and water troughs and their shelter. They will also not sleep or lay near the manure. They use mud to block their sensitive skin from the sun and insect bites.”
It will come as a shock to many that pigs are one of the top intelligent animals in the animal kingdom. In the same article, Sarah notes that pigs are smarter animals in that they can learn new behaviors and scientists believe they are smarter than primates and three-year old children. “The reason why pig farmers create strong pens and fences is that pigs can escape from even a relatively good fence. They are known to work in pairs and sometimes, smarter swine even open other pens to let other pigs escape.”
The Law in the Old Testament
We have deduced as was commonly believed pigs are not dirty animals. This is evidenced by the fact they are intelligent animals. Another area that is touched on why pigs shouldn’t be eaten is on the law God gave to the Israelite.
Leviticus 11: 1-8
It is clear from the above passage the Israelite were commanded not to eat pig’s meat.
Deuteronomy 14: 1-8
In the above passage God had made it clear to the Israelite they should eat animals that have completely split hooves and chew the cud. However, if an animal doesn’t have both it should not be eaten, that is, if it has one but lacks the other. “And you may not eat the pig. It has split hooves but does not chew the cud, so it is ceremonially unclean
The Old and New Testament
We are living in the New Testament, no longer bound by the Old Testament. Jesus is the New Testament as he came to fulfill the Old Testament. We no longer need to sacrifice spotless lamb in order for our sins to be wiped out. Jesus is the permanent sacrifice, our High Priest. We no longer need a human high priest. Then, is the Old Testament useless?
Specifically, the laws were given to the Israelite. This was in order to show them how to live a holy life since God is holy and to show them by breaking the law they have in fact sinned. It is through the law we learn we are not perfect. It is through the law we learn we are sinful. As such we try to follow the laws so we don’t miss a step and find ourselves having sinned without our knowledge.
If you look closely at the laws the Israelite were given it is evident, especially The 10 Commandments, it is impossible to obey fully all the commandments without breaking one. We will break one or several of them since we are humans. But, why did God give the Israelite various laws including the 10 commandments? To show them they have always been breaking the law without their knowing. Once they were given they knew they had been breaking God’s laws unknowingly. Also, God wanted to separate them as a holy nation from others. This God did in order to pave way for the coming of Jesus. Lastly, to reveal Himself to the Israelite and through the Israelite the other nations would witness there is a Living and powerful God who exists; not gods.
In Romans 7:6 it states, “But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.” It is through the law we learn we are sinful by nature. Also, we learn due to our sinful nature as sin works through us we find it hard to follow or obey God’s laws to the letter. God knew it would be very hard for man to obey His laws without breaking one or several of them as long as he is alive. Reading the history of Israelites proves it is hard to follow God’s laws. Now, we no longer live under the law as we are led by the Spirit of God as a result of Jesus dying on the cross as a sign of sacrifice to reconcile us to God, and to make it possible to follow God. This is why Jesus said it will come a time when people will worship God in spirit and truth.
Does it mean the Old Testament is useless? No. It serves to show us how man cannot please God through good works as man will more often than not break the laws of God or will sin. It serves to teach us lessons we should learn from the Israelite. It follows that there are books in the Old Testament which don’t necessarily touch on the laws God gave to Israelite which are important for us Christians. As such, we are not chained to follow the laws as they were never meant for us, the Gentiles.
Should We Then Eat Pork?
Are we allowed to eat pork as Christians? Yes and No. What do I mean? From the following Bible verses found in the New Testament, all things were created by God. God saw all the things He had created were good. Therefore, there is no condemnation in eating whichever kind of meat a person wants to have a taste on. In Genesis 9 it says, “Then God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I had given you grain and vegetables. But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it.”
Before the Israelite were given the laws found in Leviticus, any kind of meat was acceptable to be eaten. God as we have seen gave them the laws for specific reasons. Now, since we are not under the law, there is no obligation we shouldn’t eat this or that. There are only two instances eating of meat is a sin.
a) If your conscience convicts you it is not good (sin) to eat any meat or a certain type of meat, afterwards you go ahead and eat you have sinned. If your conscience is clear on the matter of meat, you are free to eat without feeling guilty of having eaten meat or the meat. If you feel it is a sin or not good to eat pork and you go ahead and eat it, then you have sinned for you will feel guilty after eating it.
“Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty of doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions if you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”
b) If your fellow believer judges eating a certain kind of meat or meats in general are not good, you shouldn’t try to convince him/her to eat it including meat that has been offered to idols. When you do so you are sinning for you are creating a stumbling block for him/her. If you have hosted your friend and he/she doesn’t like meat or a specific meat don’t go ahead and cook for him/her. Offer an alternative food. Even if you are in a restaurant, don’t eat meat which your friend feels is not good. Don’t be a stumbling block. Eat what your fellow believer believes is right to eat. When you are on your own or with friends or loved ones who don’t feel guilty of eating meat, there is no reason why you shouldn’t eat in such a circumstance.
“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s alright to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.”
“Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble.”
It is evident from the above scriptures and the verses that will follow afterwards it is not wrong to eat any kind of meat. It depends on how you feel on a particular kind of meat or meat in general. Everything that was created was created for our own good. We shouldn’t restrain ourselves or follow teachings that one should not eat this or that meat because it is dirty or an abomination to God. If you feel good eating a meat or certain meats, well it is all right but if your conscience isn’t clear about it don’t go ahead and eat it or any meat. The most important thing to remember is to give thanks before you eat and to ask God to bless it. When you give thanks to God for the meal and pray to God to bless it then the meal is sanctified. Go ahead and eat it. “Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. For we know it is made acceptable by the Word of God and prayer.” Remember: “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, you’re defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”