Question:

I am a vegetarian, I am also Catholic. I read a page on your web site: Did Jesus Eat Meat?

This subject has always been a struggle for me. My question to you is: Would you agree that when we are judged will we also be judge upon our merits and what is in our hearts and not just our commitment to Christ?
Keeping in mind that I read in the Bible that Jesus says if you give mercy mercy will be given to you.

I try hard not to be a judgmental vegetarian, the type that condemns people for eating meat. I still struggle with it myself, what I would give for a product that was healthy and tastes like crispy bacon. :-)

Because we have minds and the capability to choose, both gifts from God, I feel that the Lord will look into our hearts and forgive us (I Timothy 4:1-5). The above mentioned page leaves me with the impression that not partaking of animal flesh is itself a sin. Is that a wrong impression?

Thank you for your time and thought.


Answer:

Under the Old Testament law, it was required that each Israelite participate in the Passover feast and part of that feast was the eating of the Passover lamb. Willfully not eating the lamb was a sin:

"... observe the Passover to the LORD. In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall observe it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall observe it. But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet neglects to observe the Passover, that person shall then be cut off from his people, for he did not present the offering of the LORD at its appointed time. That man will bear his sin" (Numbers 9:10-13).

What I was pointing out in the article is that Jesus had to have eaten the Passover lamb because he was a Jew living under the law of Moses and the Bible states that he did so without sin.

Under the law of Christ, the New Testament, the decision whether to eat meat or not is a personal one. The problem is that we have groups who are trying to remove the choice given to us by God. "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:1-4). The eating of only vegetables is called the weaker position because the person is placing more limits upon himself than God has placed. It is not wrong to do so, but it isn't an accurate reflection of God's teachings. But notice the command that is specifically given to the vegetarian, "let not him who does not eat judge him who eats," yet this is precisely what we have people doing today.

In regards to judgment, God stated, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:10). God is not going to just look at the good things we have done. We will receive an accurate judgment concerning all our deeds. It is God "who "will render to each one according to his deeds"" (Romans 2:6). This judgment will not be based solely on our external actions. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God" (I Corinthians 4:5). Our thoughts and our motives will also be judged by God.

Men can only judge what they see and what they are told. Our judgment is admittedly flawed as a result. If I see someone stealing from a store, I don't need to know his motives in order to state that he is sinning. His actions tell me what he is doing and God has stated that stealing is a sin. But there are a lot of people who appear to be pious, but whose hearts are corrupt. For example, in the Old Testament God scolded the Israelites concerning their fasts:

"Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?' In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday" (Isaiah 58:3-10).

The Israelites were fasting, which is what God had asked for on certain occasions, but they were doing it with the wrong motives and for that God condemned them.

What concerns me is that you are apparently stating that you are willing to go against God's law in certain matters and because you sincerely want to do this that God will overlook the matter. Being sincerely wrong is still wrong. For example, Paul stated "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day" (Acts 23:1). Yet there was a time in Paul's life when he fought against Christ and threw Christians into prison. "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief" (I Timothy 1:12-13). Paul was saved because God mercifully gave him the opportunity to leave his sins behind. Paul wasn't saved while remaining in his sins and expecting God to overlook them.

It is not a sin if you choose to eat only vegetables. But it is a sin if you insist that others must also conform to your choice or to think of them as being less righteous because they choose to eat meat. At the same time, it is not a sin to eat meat. But it is a sin if a meat eater condemns a vegetarian for his choice or to invite him over for dinner and place only foods he has chosen not to eat in front of him.