There has been so much commotion going on in my social media sphere.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal across the country, the entire debate about homosexuality, the definition of marriage and whether the U.S. is going to hell wrapped in a gasoline-soaked Confederate flag has been all the rage these days.
As one who loves a good Facebook debate, I gleaned some of my favorite questions and arguments from these various discussions, and I’ve decided to respond over the course of a series entitled Questions from my Gay Friends . In this series I will do my best to address issues and qualms that seem to be at the center of the Christian/LGBT debate.
First up is the discussion surrounding homosexuality and shellfish (yes, you read that correctly). It resurfaced throughout several discussions this past week, which led me to believe many found this to be a valid argument. One Facebook and Twitter user after the next seemed to be calling those of us who profess Christ while also enjoying the delicacies of the shellfish persuasion HYPOCRITES! Some even used this argument as their ultimate trump card! GASP!
Of course, I’m personally taken aback by why shellfish is even being drug into this mess. It ain't done nothing to nobody, and it's one of my most endeared food groups in the entire universe! In fact, I love shellfish so much I've refused to go full-on vegetarian because my love for shrimp is on level Bubba Blue! After all, as Bubba so eloquently reminds us:
“...shrimps is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich...That’s – that’s about it.”
Actually, Bubba, forgot about buffalo shrimp, shrimp cocktail, popcorn shrimp, and shrimp scampi. (Mmmmmmm *Takes moment to salivate*) But, I digress.
ORIGINS OF THE SHELLFISH DEBATE
All jokes aside, if I’m honest, I do get why non-believers are quick to turn to the shellfish argument. Practically speaking, shellfish aren’t exactly the cleanest creatures in the sea. In fact, they are bottom feeders, which is probably why Mosaic law instructed the children of Israel to deem unclean for food “anything living in water that does not have fins and scales” (Deuteronomy 14:10; Leviticus 11:12).
Most proponents of homosexuality point to this law and other ceremonial laws from the Old Testament to speak to the absurdity or invalidity of such requirements today, or perhaps even to expose assumed hypocrisy among Christians. The thought is since homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22-23) and consuming shellfish were both considered sins in the Old Testament, it appears that Christians are picking and choosing which laws to follow. If eating shellfish is now okay, so too is homosexuality, right?
I totally get it.
Yet, to understand why this argument doesn't hold sea water, you’ll have to truly understand the Gospel. You'll need to understand the fullness of the purpose the Mosaic laws served. You will need to know how those laws related to Israel and take note of how they paved the way for Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:1; Colossians 2:17; Galatians 3:24-25). You might even want to read beyond Leviticus and actually study the Old and New Testaments.
THE SHELLFISH LAW IN CONTEXT
In the most basic sense, the Mosaic laws demonstrate God's Divine Truths in the natural. They give us a practical understanding of God’s holiness and His standards for purity. They demonstrate His nature, His character, His love for mankind, and His ultimate plan for purifying and redeeming us.
We were made in God's image to commune with Him (Genesis 1:26-27). Yet, sin (our impurity) hinders that communion. Because of Adam's sin, all mankind fell out of right standing with God (Romans 5:12-14). But God had a plan to restore us to Him through Christ, and that plan was initiated through the children of Israel. As such, they were required to follow strict laws, ordinances and commandments (or civil, ceremonial and moral laws) to keep them pure before God, to ensure their nature and character were like His, and to help them maintain a relationship with Him. After all, God is holy. Nothing impure, unclean or defiled could come before Him (This is why the prophet Isaiah, who dwelled among unclean people, had to be purified before speaking on God's behalf - Isaiah 6:5-7).
He’d also declared the children of Israel holy (Exodus 19:5-6), so nothing God deemed impure or unclean could be found within them or dwell among them – hence the laws concerning individuals afflicted with disease; dietary requirements, how to clean, and what to wear; even the law to actually put to death those who committed moral sins, etc.
WHAT DEFILES A MAN? not shellfish.
God knows this is why I bless Him for sending Christ to fulfill the law and, through Him, all that was once unclean is now deemed clean!
This actually has double meanings, as it applies to what we consume as well as how God sees us.
With Christ serving as THE atonement for the sins for mankind, we have a new opportunity to commune with God. In Christ, we can now boldly come before God and not be turned away. Now all mankind (not only the Jews) can come to the Father, but not by keeping laws and ordinances, but by Faith in Christ (Acts 10:34). This is why the leper (Matthew 8:2-4) and the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22) were made clean with just one touch from Jesus. According to Mosaic laws, these individuals were legally unclean, social outcasts and anyone who touched them became unclean as well, yet they were cleansed by Faith in Christ (Leviticus 13:45).
On the subject of consuming that which is “unclean,” Jesus declares that which goes into the body (in terms of eating and eating with unclean hands) is actually not what defiles it, as those things go into the stomach and are eventually expelled (Mark 7:14-19).
“What comes out of a person is what defiles them,” He says. And as He continues, the shellfish versus homosexuality comparisons begin to fall apart: "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:20 – 23). Note, Jesus’ reference to “sexual immorality” refers to ALL sexual sins, as outlined in Mosaic law (Leviticus 18).
Abstaining from shellfish and other unclean foods was a symbolic act of purity. It was part of the ceremonial aspect of Mosaic laws that set the children of Israel apart from other nations, showcasing them as the chosen people of God (Deuteronomy 14:2; Leviticus 20:7-8). Arguably, from a practical sense, eating "unclean" foods today could potentially impact our bodies. But even if that is the case, they still do not defile our hearts, which is ultimately what God judges (1 Samuel 16:7).
Through Christ, Gentiles who come to Him in faith (and once "unclean" foods) are now also "clean" and acceptable to God (Acts 10:13-15; 10:34-35). Nevertheless, God's standard for morality remains unchanged. It is and has always been applicable to all men (Romans 2:13-15). Sexual sins, murder, theft, etc fell under Mosaic law as well, but Jesus’ reiteration (as well as the Disciples' - Romans 1:26-27; I Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:9-10) demonstrates how living under Christ's new covenant requires us to maintain our Faith and morality. Hence His haste to forgive the adulterous woman while also telling her to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:3-11), as well as telling the man He'd healed at the pool of Bethesda to "stop sinning or something worse will happen to you" (John 5:14).
An unclean heart - and the actions committed as a result - is what is counter to God’s character and everything He created us to be in His image. This is why matters such as homosexuality (and the others mentioned in Jesus' listing above) continue to be a sin in His eyes.
And this is why I've had to humble myself, and repent from sex before marriage, but I still get to enjoy crab cakes!
I SAid ALL OF THIS TO SAY...
I pray this helps clear up the shellfish confusion. I also pray that anyone (no matter the sin) who has been feeling the pull of Christ, but has been confused by all of this and similar messes, will finally see the truth, repent and believe the Gospel. Lastly, I pray that everyone understand that you cannot shut down the Word with the Word - it's 100% impossible. You cannot pick and choose Bible verses to deem other parts of the Bible invalid. The only way it makes sense - the only way you will appear to 'trump' anything the Word says - is if you don't understand what you're saying. The Bible cannot be read as merely a book. After all, God (your Creator - whether you know that now or not) is Wiser than you and His Word will not return to Him void.
I welcome your questions, comments or even counter-arguments if you believe anything was left out. My only request is that your feedback be respectful and that your arguments be clear.
And I hope you’ll check back to read my next post in this series, "Questions from My Gay Friends: What About Gay Christians?".
With all the Peace and Love God intends,