meat lovers beware! our taste buds have been contaminated

i originally wrote this post for the refuge blog in october 2007.  when i was looking at a few old posts this week i stumbled across it and thought i’d repost it because most everyone here has never read it.  it’s almost 3 years later and even though i am rarely around people who ask for more meat, i hear it now and then when i intersect with people in passing.  they’ll declare, “oh, i really love this pastor because he really gives us meat!” and i always get in my car, chuckle a little bit, and think “um,  yeah, sorry, but that’s not what he’s giving you…”  enjoy.  as always, would love to hear your thoughts!

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“i want some meat!”

“i wish we could get more meat!”

“we really need more meat!”

i know those of you who are struggling to buy groceries are thinking the same thing. but i’m talking about a different kind of meat that has nothing to do with grocery stores but everything to do with church. i have heard the cry for “meat” within the church ever since i became a true-blue evangelical church-going christian. when i entered into a season of spiritual and emotional healing about 14 years ago I remember demanding it myself. things started getting a little intense in my women’s group (people were really sharing honestly from their heart, not holding back, going the distance instead of faking it) and i told my group leader “i really wish we used the Bible more in here, i really want more meat! i really want to grow…” (i am now of course so embarrassed that I said this & after having seen the light a few years later confessed to her for not recognizing then that what we were doing in that little group was far more than just some stupid slab of spiritual meat—it was actually the whole cow!). but i was not alone in this kind of thinking. i hear it all the time, although now it is like nails on a chalkboard to me, maybe even like all of my children’s nails on a chalkboard all at once. and as you all know that is a lot of fingernails!

here’s what i think people mean by “meat.”

1. “Bible knowledge” – as in scripture verses and telling us exactly what they are supposed to mean. the more the better. a little bit of hebrew or greek translation adds the perfect spice.

2. “teaching” – teachers telling people what they think they need to learn or know in a very specific clear way so that we feel like we got a “lesson”, something motivating.

3. “certainty” – these are the facts and we are 100% certain that’s what this means and on top of that we are certain this is what you are supposed to do with this knowledge, too.

4. “a touch of shame” – some kind of moment that gets created when you think “now I’ll try harder….I need to be more godly…I am convicted and now this week I will get rid of that sin for good.”

while none of those things are inherently “wrong” what gets to me about all of them is they are sort of irrelevant to the gospel of Jesus. in fact, he said over and over to the religious leaders who had these 4 things mastered up and down, backwards & forwards, “ummm, guys, you are missing the point. here’s all that you need to do—be like me.” he didn’t say “go to a room, feed your belly with knowledge, get inspired and go home feeling spiritually fat.” he said, “hang out with the outcasts, the losers, the nonreligious, the prostitutues, the sick (oh, and by the way, that means you), get in touch with your brokenness & need for me and practice the way of self-sacrifice, generosity of spirit, humility and love. yes, my friends, this is what will change the world.”

i love the Bible. i think scripture can be transforming. but i also believe we have dismissed that true spiritual maturity is a life of serving others in tangible ways, humbling ourselves to the lowest place, giving up our comfort, money, time, pride for the sake of others. remember, the word of God became flesh, and that is what He did.

i think when we are honest what we really want is to be spoonfed spiritual milk and are terrified of true, tasty, Jesus steaks. most of the people i have been around through the years who demand “meat” are great, sincere believers. but usually their expressed desire for “meat” is actually them running for the safety of others who are more socially acceptable and sound more godly.

you see, the church has contaminated our taste buds. we have been taught to think that “spiritual” must include Bible knowledge, certainty, teaching, a touch of shame (and healing that looks like good behavior) so we keep seeking after it, church after church, Bible study after Bible study. but honestly, what it seems like to me is that people keep learning but never really apply much. we’re lonely but we never connect. we keep slipping in and out of services but never engage with a hurting person beyond “hi, nice to meet you.” we keep going to Bible studies & church meetings & services & prayer times hoping we’ll become more like Jesus and end up insulating ourselves more and more from the very places Jesus always was hanging out.

so here’s my soapbox mantra for the past 5 years or so, everytime I hear someone demand “meat”….“okay, no problem, look around. i see freezer after freezer full of it.”

reach out to someone in need no matter how messy it seems. help the poor. sacrifice your time and money. restore a broken relationship. love the outcast, especially the person that bugs the hell out of you. spend the time you waste watching TV investing in a person, no matter how young or old. stop nagging your spouse and change your behavior. serve someone else. open your home to others. force yourself to do something uncomfortable. get your head around the reality that you’re just as messed up as ‘those people’. humble yourself and let another person into your life. stay in a friendship for the long haul instead of running away.

and here’s what i believe usually happens next—never directly, always subtly—“nah, that kind of meat, i can do without. when does the next Bible study start?”

our taste buds have been contaminated. Jesus’ ways sometimes don’t initially taste too good going down. but for me, i have to say, nothing’s better than the aftertaste– the quiet moments when I notice where God’s spirit worked, what He is teaching me about me, life, humanity in the midst, and the beauty in the ugliness.

i know a lot of people think that at the refuge we are drinking milk. it sure tastes like steak to me.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

12 Comments

  • Thanks. I hope that you do not mind if I cut/paste the “bold” paragraph. There are a few folks who I want to share with because of a convo that we had recently and it is always nice for “another voice” to be an echo. Also, a note to myself for my blog journal.

    Reply
  • thanks for that and ditto on Jeff’s request to cut/past the “bold” paragraph, for myself…i need to hang it in the bathroom and read it daily……i loved it and will carry it in my heart….

    this morning i was walking and my routine is to touch the “END” sign at the cul de sac and come up with something clever in my mind for the day….today it was “No motives, just love in my heart for Jesus” and i touched the “N” in the word END….today reading this nailed it and in sync with my own thoughts….thank you for re-posting!

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  • This post is a real gem! I need to discover some of your older posts, if they’re still available.

    Two of your comments especially resonate with our experiences:

    -“’meat’ – 1. ‘Bible knowledge’ – as in scripture verses and telling us exactly what they are supposed to mean.”
    Somehow this usually includes certain people in the church having titles that give them “authority” over other believers, so that the person with the title can tell other believers what they may and may not do. Such as “You must be rebaptized because you were too young when you were baptized, because you weren’t baptized in this church or because you were baptized the wrong way. (Or) You may not teach men or speak from the platform because you are a woman. This is what the Bible teaches, and the Bible gives me the authority to tell you that you must do (or not do) this. You must do what I tell you or you’re disobeying God.”
    Somehow this almost always includes “The Bible teaches that you must tithe, which means giving 10% of all of your income to this church (so that we can pay for our property and salaries). If you want to give money to poor people, orphans and whatever, that is up to you, but that is on top of your tithe.” (Implied is that the staff salaries of $100K plus are what these guys must have to survive, and that they deserve it even if they choose to live in a classier neighborhood 90 minutes away from the church and spend only a couple of half days a week plus half a day Sunday doing church work because it’s too far to drive – a real situation I know of that is happening now.) “This is what the Bible teaches and if you don’t do it you’re disobeying God.”
    I “love” the guys who quote the Greek meaning of some word or passage. It’s like, “This is what God says in Greek and no one can argue with that.” That is like the ultimate authority. It just so happens that I know Greek better than most of them, and most of them are just looking up the stuff using an interlinear Bible and a lexicon. Frequently, they don’t get the correct meaning for the context, or are using a lexicon with a certain theological leaning. Don’t challenge their “Greek”. You’ll be told to leave the church.

    -“so we keep seeking after it, church after church, Bible study after Bible study. but honestly, what it seems like to me is that people keep learning but never really apply much. we’re lonely but we never connect. we keep slipping in and out of services but never engage with a hurting person beyond “hi, nice to meet you.”
    We think if we have the right knowledge (of the Bible or whatever), we’re o.k. (Isn’t that just a remake of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism – the right knowledge is what counts.?) However, I read the Gospels to say “Do as Jesus did”. If we believe it, we’ll do it. If we don’t do it, we’re only pretending to believe.
    We’re changing around the interior of our home and our yard to make space to invite groups of neighbors for food events where we can all connect. Our group of Jesus’ followers is adopting center city alleys to clean up and inviting the people whose homes back up to those alleys to join us for work, food and talk. And – we’re doing it on Sunday mornings and calling it “church”. I bet someone has some Bible verse that proves God would want us to be in a “church” (building) on Sunday morning singing about what God did for us and listening to a sermon telling us what God has to say about how we should believe about something or the other.

    Reply
  • Thanks Sam.
    You mentioned that there is probably someone who knows a verse out there that would put us back into “church” instead of living it out as you describe.
    I submit this-
    “μην παρατηρήστε το άτομο πίσω από την κουρτίνα”
    roughly translated,
    “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”…

    Reply
  • HOpe you don’t mind if I link this post to my FB. It is truly timely considering a conversation I have been having. Thank you Kathy!!

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  • Kathy nicly put. I am sharing your point, but sadly many Christians prefer to simply sit and listen to rules and regulations. Church institution is all talking about what we should do.

    I’m glad to see that God is raising up people who want to BE real followers of Jesus. We have to be doers not talkers of God’s will.

    Sam yes today churches have the “gifted and called” with special education who have the ” right” to teach and share. Not becuse they are annointed by God but because they have a bible college degree. Jesus didn’t sent his diciples to school. He spent time with them and His life Example was the living on hands teaching.

    I love to read your blog Kathy.

    Reply
  • jeff – of course, you can always use anything here, feel free! i’d love to know how the conversation went…

    kathy – great to hear from you here. that’s a fun routine every day. thanks for reading & sharing & being you…

    sam – it’s impossible for me to read your responses without smiling 🙂

    sage – now that was a good one.

    minnow – of course, same as i said to jeff, would love to know if anyone responded and their thoughts from another perspective, possibly?

    WIP – that is one of my biggest beefs, really, the whole thing about those who have education get to do this or that. devotion to follow Jesus and live the gospel was the only requirement of the disciples. thanks for reading and being part of the carnival.

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  • Good post! I recall the words of the late John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement. He had a standard response for people who complained they wanted more meat from him as a teacher and pastor. John said, “The meat is in the streets.” Or as you said, go and help somebody. Put your Bible knowledge to the test, and find someway to apply that knowledge.

    Reply
  • A friend posted this on facebook today.
    As a Missionary, I have to prepare my own ‘meat’ on the field (when you look at it traditionally as the study of Word of God). Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and let someone else do the work 😉
    Recently (on furlough), we started attending an awesome church, where they actually serve some meat that I can sink my teeth into. Seriously, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to feast at a table laden with such good food. And I’m really enjoying it and very thankful!!! But the other week, I started thinking, “I am saying ‘Yes and Amen’ so much during this guys sermons, loving the challenges he puts forward and enjoying the ‘sucker punches’ a little too much. Am I really being challenged…” or perhaps the real question is “Am I applying the Challenge?”
    Then today, I was enjoying the sermon again, thinking it through… and then I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. “How many of us in this room (about 200 of us) will actually take this challenge to heart? How many of these people understand what amazing food they are being fed? How many of us will remember it by dinner time and put legs on it??”

    It’s a good reminder that the point of all this is not *In Here*… the point is *Out There*.

    Church is not a Club where I can learn to be better behaved and pat myself on the back for my righteousness… The Fellowship of Believers is for the Equipping of The Saints to *Go Out There*. Like you said, if we aren’t going, then we’re just getting fat. Whether we’re getting milk or meat. It’s still just Spiritual Obesity.

    Reply
    • thank you so much for reading and sharing a bit of where you are at, anne. yeah, it’s so subtle sometimes, the sitting & listening & the stirring and then the non-actually-doing..i love that line “it’s still just spiritual obesity.” oh, that will linger! blessings to you in the beautiful work that you are doing!

      Reply

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