Travelling as much as I do on the Albany Highway, I get to spend a lot of time at road works. Every year there are a couple of sections that have an extra over-taking lane added. These provide much needed improvements and safety, and they are greatly appreciated. But the time I spend slowing down and waiting at these road works has given me the opportunity to think about eating shellfish in a slightly different way.
One of the things that come up time and time again in popular media is the accusation that Christians pick and choose what rules in the Bible they want to obey. It is claimed that the Bible prohibits eating shellfish and homosexuality, but that Christians have decided one of those is cool but the other is not. Which, it is explained, just proves Christians are not only stupid (in that they don’t know what the Bible says), but also bigoted and hateful towards homosexuals (with all that underlying homophobia that is apparently eating away at us and making us evil).
Aside from the fact that people who make this claim seem completely unaware that in a single section of the Bible Jesus both abolishes the food regulations and reaffirms the sexual regulations of the Old Testament (Mark 7 14-23), they also seem unaware of the nature of some of the OT regulations.
And this is where the road works got me thinking.
Before the road works begin, the speed limit is 110km/hr. For the duration of the works, that drops to 80, or 60, or 40, or even to a complete stop at times. Once the works are finished, the speed goes back up to 110. There is a purpose – safety for both drivers and workers – to the lowering of speed limits while there are works in progress. But it would be foolish to complain afterwards that the speed limit has been raised to 110 when it was once lower.
And yet this is exactly what people who complain about Christians being okay with eating shellfish do. They ignore the fact that God created these things good, and able to be eaten and enjoyed. Then God introduced prohibitions about them for a particular purpose – to teach people about God’s holiness and our inability to approach him as sinful human beings. Once its purpose had been served and Jesus revealed the perfect way to be made acceptable to God (through his death as payment for our sins) there was no need to keep the restrictions in place. In road works terms – after the cross, there was no need to keep the lower speed limit.
But with respect to sexual sin, the Old Testament prohibitions were never a temporary measure to achieve a purpose. Instead, they were a reflection of the fact that God created people to be united in marriage as a complementary pair – one woman and one man – just as the church complements Christ, and the Son complements the Father in the Trinity.
Furthermore, this marriage ideal is God’s only intended avenue for sexual activity. God’s design for marriage results in deep trust, enjoyment and closeness, while enabling the conception and rearing of children by their biological parents. There are plenty of things that go wrong with God’s ideal in a fallen world, but that doesn’t mean Christians should give up on holding to the standard God sets. In road works terms, endorsing sexual sin is like increasing the speed limit through road works to 200km/hr. Its going to damage something and cause a whole lot of hurt. Divorce, unwanted pregnancy, rape and sexually transmitted diseases are sufficient for illustration.
Pretty much anyone who is not a Christian objects to one or more aspects of God’s intent for sexual activity and sexuality, and so it isn’t a matter of Christians singling out homosexuality as ‘sin’.
The fact that so many homosexual couples now seem to be desiring families of their own, and needing to go to quite extraordinary lengths to attain them is just one indication that marriage as God planned fulfils a number of purposes and is not just an expression of ‘love’.
But I’m starting to stray into a very different area now, so I will desist.
Hopefully not eating shellfish at roadworks helps you to understand this issue a little better.