You ever heard the phrase “You are what you eat”? I’ve never been able to understand what it means. Like, what does it really mean??? My African mind can never really grasp the meaning behind that phrase.
When I was a child (probably 8 or 9), My mum warned me to NEVER eat snails if anyone ever offered it to me. She told me the story of how as a young adult, she had become a Christian and the Missionaries told her she could eat anything now that she was a Christian. She visited a friend and was offered snail. She decided to try it but broke out in a horrible rash. She was having an anaphylactic reaction to the snails. So, she was very stern with me when giving me this instruction. “I should NEVER EVER EVER try to eat snails”.
In Nigeria, snail was a delicacy in just about very tribe but my tribe; the Isoko tribe of delta state. There’s a lot of food we were forbidden to eat, but she only stuck with Snails because snails were a delicacy everywhere in Nigeria. Pork on the other hand, was a complete NO NO for just about every tribe in the country. At least it was, when I was a child and we didn’t have the luxury of modern technology to influence the culture. Back then you would never find anyone raising pigs or selling pork meat. Pigs were considered filthy animals and if you sold it, you were as filthy as the pig (no disrespect to those who raise and sell pork. I’m just trying to convey the bleakness of pork sales in the Nigerian market back then). All that has changed now. I visited Nigeria a few years ago and saw Pork sausages in supermarkets.
This story isn’t really about pork, but about traditions, instructions, and how they change over time. How they get twisted and overridden over multiple generations. How even the bible itself, the written words for the foundation of our faith gets watered down over multiple generations.
I was at a virtual party a few days ago, and we were playing a game. One of the questions I was asked while playing the game was; “name 5 types of meat you would buy at the supermarket”. I think I answered with; chicken, sirloin steak, lambs, Bison, and venison. Almost everyone laughed and one guest asked “where are you shopping? Wholefoods?”. Then 2 people went on to say “get some “pork chops” in there”. I wanted to respond with “I don’t eat pork because it’s not Kosher”, but I ended up being silent. I enjoyed the virtual party but I left there with a nagging wonder at the back of my mind. It was a church virtual party, but it appears I was the only one in the church who thought Pork meat was not-Kosher.
This night took me back to my first experience with Pork outside of Nigeria. I remember leaving Nigeria to start a life for myself in Europe at age 22. I moved to the UK, but for my first Christmas outside Nigeria, I had been invited to spend Christmas with this Irish family. They offered me bangers and mash and a lot of other stuff I can’t remember. When I bit into the sausage it tasted weird. I mean I had eaten beef sausage growing up, but this sausage tasted different. I asked what’s this? Pointing to the bangers and mash. She said; “it’s sausage and mashed potatoes” laughing. When I got back to London, I decided to visit a supermarket and look up what’s really in the banger sausage. This mini research made me realize pork was just about the only meat everywhere. My first thought after this was; what kind of society is this?
Fast forward to today and my story that’s “not about Pork meat”. The bible lists the types of animals that are clean and unclean by 2 distinct features. “It must part the hoof (i.e. divided hoofs) and chew the cud”. Animals that don’t fall into this category are considered unclean. The bible lists the Pig as one of those unclean animals. Leviticus 11:7 – “The pig, for even though it has divided hoofs and is cleft-footed, it does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you”.
To an everyday person, this makes no sense. Like why should I not eat pig because it doesn’t chew the cud? The hidden message is that Chewing the Cud means the ability to think rationally and talk/think reflectively. It carries a spiritual significance once you move past the physicality of the animal. The point is this type of animal is unable to reflect on the word (food) and digest it, even though it’s able to distinguish between good and bad (parts the hoof). First you hear the word and you obey the word (which is what Jesus did by coming into the world as a Jew and keeping a Kosher Diet as it would have been in his day), then you get the spiritual understanding because you belong to him. Therefore, Jesus always spoke in parables. He used ideas that Galileans and observant Jews would understand. For example, the angels separating the lambs from the Goats (there were no pigs in the picture). The only time Jesus refers to Pigs, he says “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you”. The other mention of Pigs in the new testament was a hoard of demons requesting to be cast into them.
The new testament writers understood Pigs as the ultimate symbol of sacrilege. Remember during the Maccabean revolt, Epiphanes Antiochus defiled the Jerusalem temple by erecting a statute of Zeus and slaughtering pigs in the temple.
Then again, scientifically Pigs have bad cholesterol (I guess there is that for those who need something else to convict them).
To cut an already long story short, if you can’t learn to hear and obey God’s commands, you can’t begin to understand and reflect on them. It’s the reflecting and understanding that takes you to the next level. Eating non-Kosher food is one of those areas the modern-day church has chosen to follow in its own way, and it’s no wonder our bodies have become feeble and sick. Pigs for example have bad cholesterol but people still choose to eat it. Some say the corona virus was caused by eating bats (a non-kosher vermin), (although, others say it was cooked up in a lab), how hard would it be for us to stick to Kosher food???
All the same, like I said earlier, this story isn’t really about Pork, it’s about how our understanding and ability to obey instructions becomes warped over time. For me; it was my mum giving me a stern warning to never eat snails even if the church tells me to eat it. Now that I live in America, I would have to travel a long way to get snails, and would absolutely want to defy my mum’s instructions, to be able to eat it. Pork on the other hand, wasn’t an instruction from my mum, because back then, we were living in a society that frowned on eating pork. Today, it ended up being an instruction I had to put on myself because I saw an instruction from God in the Bible not to do it.
What does Paul say “Today when you hear his voice, do not harden your heart”.
Again, this is not about eating Bacon or ham. It’s about hearing instruction, understanding those instructions, separating yourself from the world, and allowing yourself to be ruled by God. That’s the definition of the Kingdom. Being under God’s dominion means submitting to his instructions. Whether it’s dietary or something else.. It’s about not dismissing one rule to follow another. If you loved your neighbor would you feed him mass produced processed meat that’s bound to definitely clog up his arteries and kill him someday???
You are what you eat. We all know that, yet we don’t take it seriously when God says it. We take it seriously only when the doctor or a nutritionist says it.