We do like thinking that life is simple. We often prefer thinking Binary. Off/On. Good/Bad. Right/Wrong. Sacred/Secular. Rich/Poor, Republican/Democrat. American/Foreigner. Male/Female. Believer/Atheist. Light/Dark.
Even as small children, we looked at life through safe/danger absolutes. Consider the things that go bump in the night. That is what scares us when we are children. And the same panic can continue as a fear factor throughout our adult lives. It is the same fear that makes possible all those awful “teenage slasher” movies, zombie stalker sagas, and all the ghost stories you ever heard around a campfire. Our childhood insecurities, and the need for us to somehow divide the world into a “safe” (day) and a “scary” (night), is a way to manage the chaos and unexpected outcomes that are part of daily living. We can tell out kids, there is nothing “bad” out there at night that is not present in the day. God created the world and said it was all good. The world of day and the world of night are the same world. The world created by the divine does not know the difference between night and day. God’s presence is always and everywhere, even when the world looks dark and scary, not just when the world looks sunny and bright.
The amazingly diverse world and God’s abiding presence is behind the text in this week’s reading from Acts. Peter, who had already been preaching to the Gentiles about Jesus, is criticized by those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, but still cling to their unique Jewish identity (Kosher/Unholy). One of the hardest things for some of the earliest disciples of Jesus to learn was that our identity does not come from family or ancestry, gender or race, or the foods we eat, but from our relationship with Christ. It is still one of the hardest things disciples of Jesus are still trying to get right: Having the capacity to see the spectrum, the continuum of life experience that reflects the range of God’s beautiful creation.
A continuum of choices applies to our diets, as well. For example, many years ago I decided a great way to become healthier was to adjust my diet to reduce carbohydrates. Even without carbs, there are so many choices that contribute to my wellness. (Recently, I became aware of a very useful chart for those following a Keto lifestyle at Ketogenic Supplemental Reviews. It shows the incredible range of food choices that optimize the low-carbohydrate diet.)
In the first century “binary” world of good/bad, kosher/forbidden food choices, Jesus spoke of whole life wellness and a continuum of choices. To dine with someone with a different background was to suggest that there was also a spiritual union as well. For a Jew in the First Century, to dine with a Gentile suggested that you approved and participated in their pagan practices. Eating with outsiders was not just a breach of protocol, it was a break with hundreds of years of tradition. That is, until Jesus shows us the depth of God’s Table of abundance. Are you hungry for some new spiritual food? You will want to join us on Sunday as we consider Jesus’ New Whole World Diet.