The fourth Monday of Easter is the Feast of the Bacon Cheeseburger, when we commemorate the divine lifting of the Jewish dietary laws:
Peter began and explained it to them step by step, saying, “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when in a trance I had a vision, something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me. Looking intently into it, I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth, the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky.
I also heard a voice say to me, ‘Get up, Peter. slaughter and eat.’
But I said, ‘Certainly not, sir, because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
But a second time a voice from heaven answered, ‘What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.’
It is to be conceded my spiritual life suffers from too much focus on bacon.
All facetiousness aside, a question that puzzles many Bible readers is how to make sense of the various laws and regulations handed down in the Torah. Are all to be observed? Some? None? Do Christians entirely set aside the whole shebang, then get a Christian Law of some kind from a different source?
One does not set aside a divine commandment lightly. That said, in our ordinary lives, we all understand the difference between, say, a law against rape and a regulation about the proper forms for filing one’s building permits. The one is a universal moral commandment, the other a means to a reasonable end.
What shall we think about keeping kosher? The Old Testament is scattered through with story after story of Jewish heroes risking all — even unto torture and death — rather than eat the bacon. Were they misguided?
No. Not at all. The context in these incidents is always one of reverence for God, and a refusal to compromise with some other power in order to protect one’s comfort and status. Comfort-and-status meaning even one’s very life.
The variation on the old joke: Would you violate one of God’s commandments for a million dollars? For your life? For your childrens’ lives? Then how about for $1? For a few chocolate bars?
We aren’t holy because we’re willing to obey God in small things. That’s a starting point. But when it costs, really costs, that’s when we see what sort of faith we truly possess.
Fortunately God is merciful, and can and will make up for what we lack, if we let Him.
Artwork by the illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop’s ‘Treasures of the Bible’, 1894 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons