Food Polluted by Idols

Acts 15: 19-21 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

So, what’s the deal with strangled animals and feet polluted by idols? Let’s look at food polluted by idols. The “pollution” here happened when the food was presented to idols in the home or at a temple. Eating the food afterward was often part of the worship practice, so the instruction to abstain from polluted food is essentially an instruction to refrain from idolatry. In other places, however, Paul lets Gentiles know that they may eat meat sacrificed to idols as long as it will not cause “weaker brothers” to stumble.

God’s tendency throughout scripture is to move his people slowly from one thing to the next. He pushes his people just slightly beyond the expectations of their culture – not so much that they can’t handle following him, but enough that they are set apart. In the cultural time and space of Acts, eating meat sacrificed to idols felt like idolatry for some. Hence, the Jewish leaders affirmed the need for Gentiles to set themselves apart as followers of Jesus.

Navigating the space between symbols and covenant can be so tricky. Think about the symbols you've processed this week. What is it about the unhelpful symbols that has made them unhelpful, and what is it about the helpful symbols that helps them stay helpful?