At this time of year, America has a love-hate relationship with eating. Thanksgiving and the Christmas season revolve around feasting and over-indulgence. The New Year marks the beginning of a national diet craze as we all try to compensate for our holiday gluttony. But how much do we think about eating from a Christian perspective?
It's easy for Christians to fall back on a simplistic mode of thinking about food, arguing that "the Bible doesn't say we shouldn't eat X" or "in the Bible, they ate X." Without reflection on what and how we eat, however, we lose an opportunity for our faith to touch all areas of our lives. Many Christian groups are taking different approaches to this issue: This book review discusses a Christian notion of eating a kosher diet based on Old Testament dietary restrictions. The reviewer of the book is affiliated with the Christian Vegetarian Association, a group that espouses a plant-based diet derived from Biblical principles. The Mennonite Central Committee publishes a series of cookbooks that integrate Christian faith and eating habits around issues such as consuming less meat and processed foods, learning from other cultures, and buying locally grown produce. And, of course, someone had to ask, "What Would Jesus Eat?"
The Bible uses food as a way to explore our relationship with God in many places. Dietary restrictions were an important aspect of Old Testament law, setting the Israelites apart from other societies and helping them seek holy lives that would bring them closer to God. Food was a central piece of many miracles (think manna in the desert and the feeding of the five thousand) that revealed God's glory. The Bible can also guide our thinking about eating: what does scripture say about our bodies? What does scripture say about the earth and animals, the sources of our food? What does scripture say about our relationships with our neighbors - the people who grow, harvest, package, or sell our food? We pray, "give us this day our daily bread." Let's think about our daily bread as more than just something we consume; let's remember that it's a gift from God.