Are Christians Allowed to Eat Pork or Seafood?

A large part of Singaporean life and culture revolves around food (unfortunately, because gluttony is a definite temptation here), and it’s common for believers in Singapore to have fellowship with one another over a meal at the hawker’s centre of food court, say after the church service on Sunday.

Some young believers, however, who have started reading the bible on their own, may have conflicting feelings about eating pork and seafood, since there are prohibitions over the consumption of these things in the book of Leviticus (chapter 11; NIV):

7 And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you…

9 “‘Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales. 10 But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales—whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to regard as unclean. 11 And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean. 12 Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you.

For me personally, I have no issue about eating pork or seafood (in moderation, of course).

However, if a young believer has an issue (due to the verses of scripture cited above), my advice to him/her would be to refrain from consuming these things.

My advice would be based on the following principles found in Romans 14:

14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean…

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit

Meanwhile, it’s interesting that the Apostle Peter had a vision (in Acts 10) regarding eating “unclean” things. Although the underlying message of the vision was not about food per se, it is important to note that the apostle was “hungry and wanted something to eat” when he had the vision, and that it was the Lord Jesus that had spoken to him during the vision:

9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

My question is this:  if it were even wrong or sinful to eat “unclean” animals, would the Lord Jesus Christ “tempted” Peter to do so? I do not think so.

But why then does the book of Leviticus prohibit the consumption of pork or seafood?

Barnabas, a leader of the early church, gives an explanation in his letter (although Barnabas’ letter has not been included in the bible, it serves as useful commentary).

Barnabas suggested that when Moses gave these food prohibitions to the children of Israel, it was as if Moses was speaking a parable and that it was the transmission of spiritual principles that was actually intended:

But forasmuch as Moses said; Ye shall not eat seine nor eagle nor falcon nor crow nor any fish which hath no scale upon it, he received in his understanding three ordinances.

Yea and further He saith unto them in Deuteronomy; And I will lay as a covenant upon this people My ordinances. So then it is not a commandment of God that they should not bite with their teeth, but Moses spake it in spirit.

Accordingly he mentioned the swine with this intent. Thou shalt not cleave, saith he, to such men who are like unto swine; that is, when they are in luxury they forget the Lord, but when they are in want they recognize the Lord, just as the swine when it eateth knoweth not his lord, but when it is hungry it crieth out, and when it has received food again it is silent.

Neither shalt thou eat eagle nor falcon nor kite nor crow. Thou shalt not, He saith, cleave unto, or be likened to, such men who now not how to provide food for themselves by toil and sweat, but in their lawlessness seize what belongeth to others, and as if they were walking in guilelessness watch and search about for some one to rob in their rapacity, just as these birds alone do not provide food for themselves, but sit idle and seek how they may eat the meat that belongeth to others, being pestilent in their evil-doings.

And thou shalt not eat, saith He, lamprey nor polypus nor cuttle fish . Thou shalt not, He meaneth, become like unto such men, who are desperately wicked, and are already condemned to death, just as these fishes alone are accursed and swim in the depths, not swimming on the surface like the rest, but dwell on the ground beneath the deep sea.

Hope that helps somewhat.


Do’s and Don’ts When Attending Chinese Christian Funerals in Singapore

Most Chinese Christians in Singapore were brought up in non-Christian homes. Hence, while Chinese Christians do not practice the worship rituals of their former religion, some common cultural practices among the Chinese people also preserved at Chinese Christian funerals, although they are not adhered to too strictly.

That said, let me first run through the typical proceedings when one attends a Chinese Christian funeral in Singapore.

On arriving at the funeral, one is greeted by the family members. Typically, the family members of the deceased would be wearing a white T-shirt, matched with a black bottom.

One shakes hands with the family members (not necessarily all of them, but at least, all those whom one is acquainted with), and one would say something comforting like, “I am sorry about your loss”.

One or more family members whom one is acquainted with will accompany one to the coffin of the deceased. As one is standing next to the coffin, one should bow one’s head slightly as a mark of respect, and observe a few moments of silence. Unlike Chinese funerals involving other religions, there is no need for one to burn joss-sticks or bow three times before the photograph of the deceased. (The photograph of the deceased is placed in front of the coffin, similar for other Chinese religions. However, for Christian funerals, an opened-bible is placed on the altar table in front of the coffin, instead of a joss-stick holder).

After visiting the coffin, the family members will then escort one to an unoccupied dining table outside the altar area. They would then ask one whether one prefers to have water or a packet drink. And as a family member goes to fetch one’s drink, it would be a good time to get ready one’s “pek kim” (donation), and to hand it over to the family member, when he/she returns from fetching one’s drink.

Besides drinks, the family of the deceased would have prepared some other light snacks for visitors, in the form of groundnuts, melon seeds, and sweets, and these are placed on a cardboard plate on every table (and replenished regularly). In addition, if one is an evening visitor, it would not be uncommon for one to be invited by the family to help oneself at the buffet dinner.

It would be considered impolite for a visitor to be left alone. Hence, one or more family members (typically, those whom one is acquainted with) would sit and chat with one, unless they are busy attending to other visitors.

Most visitors would stay and chat with the family members for about half an hour to an hour. When it’s time to leave, one should go around shaking the hands of family members (again, not necessarily all family members, but at least those whom one is familiar with), and saying something comforting like: “Please take care”, to which, the response that one would receive would be along the lines of “Thank you for coming”.

Typically, an evening service is held only on the final night of the wake (unless the deceased in well-connected to the church, then, the church may also hold services on other nights). In my church, the evening service is held at 8pm and lasts for about an hour, during which the pastor will give a sermon, and a number of songs/hymns will be sung. Family members of the deceased may also want to give their eulogy during the funeral service.

At the end of the service, the pastor would invite family members, followed by friends, to have a view of the deceased. After the family members have viewed the deceased, they will be made to stand in a row next to the coffin. This is so that after friends have viewed the deceased, they would pass by the row of family members, and have the opportunity to shake each family member’s hand, and to wish them well (something like “Please take care”). Visitors would then usually make their way home after shaking hands with family members.

Having described the typical proceedings when one attends a Chinese Christian funeral in Singapore, here are the do’s and don’t’s

  1. Do dress appropriately

Clothes that draw attention to the flesh would not be appreciated by family members of the deceased. Also, one should pick the colour of one’s clothes carefully – dull colours (black, white, grey, or blue) would be welcome, and bright colours (yellow, green, orange, pink, red) should be avoided (especially red).

  1. Do not remove the bible from the altar

Usually, the bible at the altar doesn’t belong to the deceased, but the undertaker. It is not meant to be removed.

  1. It is acceptable to ask the family members how the deceased had passed away

Sitting together with family members of the deceased can sometimes be awkward, in that if one isn’t familiar with any of the family members, one can be at a loss for a conversation topic. Unless the deceased had died under suspicious circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the family members about how the deceased had passed away (indeed, most family like to talk about the deceased’s last days). If the family members wish to steer clear from this topic, they would lead the conversation, and ask the visitor how he/she knows the deceased, where he/she is living at nowadays, or what he/she is currently doing for a living, etc.

  1. It is acceptable to absent oneself from the funeral service

The funeral service usually lasts for about an hour, and if one does not wish to stay for the service, it is recommended that one leaves before it starts. Should one need to leave urgently midway through the funeral service, it isn’t a taboo to do so, but it simply draws too much attention. Hence, it is advised that one checks the timing to the funeral service before visiting the wake (it is usually stated on the obituary).