Thursday, August 2, 2012

Abortion, Christ, and Eating Blood

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 
‘Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.’” 
−Genesis 9:3–6 

“It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” 
−Acts 15:28–29

While we have been given meat to eat, we are still to avoid eating blood because the blood has such a strong connection to life; it can be said that the blood is the life. As Christians we value life, even animal life to an extent (see also Prov. 12:10). God values life/blood so much that capital punishment is required for murderers of humans (made in the image of God) and abstinence from eating blood is required concerning animals. While some connotations are made by the cultural situation (food sacrificed to idols: 1 Cor. 8), the connotation of blood and life transcends the specific situation and is part of the created order.

It is easy to think that the ban on blood eating is a pretty small point and is just another thing to put on the “do not eat” list, but the implications of this go beyond our diets. It goes to one of our most hotly debated issues today, the issue of abortion.

To show this implication, let us go back to Tertullian. Tertullian was a very influential Church Father who lived around 200 A.D. He wrote a book, The Apology, where he defended Christians against the criticisms of his day. Some of the criticisms were horrendous, and one of those was that Christians were said to eat little children. As Tertullian says, “Monsters of wickedness, we are accused of observing a holy rite in which we kill a little child and then eat it.” First Tertullian attacks the claim as a rumor without any confirmation (Chapter 7), and then appeals to natural feelings and will which would not allow it (Chapter 8). Then in chapter 9 he points to the pagans themselves and shows where they practice the same or similar thing in different ways (and describes a bunch of horrible pagan practices). Finally, he points to the actual practices of the Christians, which, of course, are as far from the accusation as possible. Says he,
“Blush for your vile ways before the Christians, who have not even the blood of animals at their meals of simple and natural food; who abstain from things strangled and that die a natural death, for no other reason than that they may not contract pollution...To clench the matter with a single example, you tempt Christians with sausages of blood, just because you are perfectly aware that the thing by which you thus try to get them to transgress they hold unlawful. And how unreasonable it is to believe that those, of whom you are convinced that they regard with horror the idea of tasting the blood of oxen, are eager after blood of men; unless, mayhap, you have tried it, and found it sweeter to the taste!”
 As Christians we are so pro-life that we don’t even eat animal blood! He also states,
“In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fœtus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed.”
To counter the accusations of the pagans he points to the (then) obvious fact that Christians are pro-life and even oppose abortion as murder, so far are they from eating children.

Christians value life, and because we value life so much, the death of Jesus is all the more powerful. Because of sin we are doomed to die, but because He shed His blood and life for our sin, we may have new and eternal life. Thus, there is the one way in which we do something similar to drinking blood, and that is in Communion.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” (Matthew 26:27-29)
While blood may be a gruesome and serious topic, it is one that is very powerful and full of significance. We don’t eat it because we value animal life. We protect human blood and life as Christian governments should shed the blood of the murder who sheds the blood of man, the image of God, even the small image. And we "drink" and live by the power of Jesus’ blood that was shed for us sinners who deserved to die that we might have life with Him who is “the life.”

-Peter Bringe
 D.V.

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