This past week I found myself in territory that I had never been in before. (At this point my children might ask if I had finally signed up for Facebook.) The truth is I was still in Lafayette and in a place I had been before. But it was a brand new experience.
The experience came during lunch with a good friend. While I had eaten at this place before, they now advertised that they served food that was Zabiha. This was a new word for us, so my friend looked it up on his phone and found out that it was referring to food that was prepared a certain way for religious reasons, specifically for Muslims. We continued with our lunch, and it wasn’t until later that I realized that my thoughts had returned to the experience.
Thinking about the issue of food and religious regulations prompted me to recall 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul addresses an issue that was causing problems for the church. The issue was a division between the believers on the practice of eating food that was previously offered to idols. Some were enjoying the meat, but others were bothered by the thought that it had been part of a sacrifice at the local temple. Paul reminded the believers that all food comes from God and is meant to be a blessing to us. Furthermore, it is the means he has created by which we receive the strength to live and serve Him.
While there are several lessons and many applications that can come from this passage, what intrigued me was that I was experiencing during my lunch the same reality that the Corinthians were experiencing—the reality of living in a rapidly changing world. Cultures from distant places are being brought together at an ever-increasing speed, and with that we experience a difference of preferences and convictions that can be responded to in varying ways. My response to those points of exposure can be guided either by my sense of cultural comfort or by the truths I have learned and believe from God’s word. My natural response is to retreat to what I know and enjoy as “normal” for me. But what I have found over time is that when I take the time to learn about those things that are new and different, these differences are what God uses to grow and shape me.
These moments of learning and the experiences of differences offer opportunities to interact with others and share applications of truth from the Bible. This is not to help other people see things my way, but to show how God’s word is relevant and essential to life. It is amazing to see what happens when God’s truth is accepted and practiced.
So back to my lunch. The meal was good, the conversation was great, and I look forward to eating there again. Even more, I look forward to the next experience that God will use to grow me and maybe those around me.