So I was talking with my husband about the challenges of reflecting on readings from this section of the Bible. What can I say today that I didn’t say yesterday?
Well, he reminded me of something I failed to consider yesterday.
Yes, this law came directly from God, but it was still influenced by their culture and scientific understanding of the time. See, God likes to meet us where we are.
If you understand that cleanliness is associated with life and perfection, and you believe a certain substance is associated with death, but the priest tells you it doesn’t actually make you unclean, that can lead to some detrimental confusion. Just like eating the food offered to foreign gods might be perfectly acceptable, but only if you actually understand that it’s acceptable. If you still believe it’s inappropriate, but you do it anyway because your mentor encouraged you to, then, sorry, but you’ve still done something inappropriate; you’ve compromised your conviction.
In other words, it is entirely possible that some things were declared unclean because of how the Israelites understood them, not because they were inherently unclean. And that doesn’t make God or his law mutable/situational. It demonstrates the importance of the heart, of intention, in regards to our state of cleanliness, but also his compassion and understanding, his willingness to teach us at a pace we can follow. We would never be able to reach him if he required us to meet him where he is. So he comes to us.
That still doesn’t explain the prohibition against pork. I still believe the only explanation of that is the danger involved. And, as my husband put it when discussing why they weren’t allowed to eat shell fish: “Stop chewing the pool filter!”