Vegetarian for Jesus

Reaching vegetarians with the life-changing gospel message of Jesus Christ

by Nathan Braun

"If what I eat causes anyone to stumble, I will never eat meat again." (1 Corinthians 8:13)

Until recently, relatively few Christians have tried to directly reach vegetarians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this reason, vegetarian remain a largely "unreached people group," even within North America. With vegetarians, vegans, and semi-vegetarians fast approaching 10% of the population, however, this is tragic. It reflects our failure as Christian communities to attract, disciple, and minister to a large, growing, and vocal minority community.

In fact, many vegetarians are generally sympathetic to and interested in the gospel, and specifically how it interacts with their diets and lifestyles. Our own CVA brochures were among the most sought-after items at two recent vegetarian conferences, so much so that we ran out of literature both times. Indeed, vegetarians typically share similar core values with Christians--such as concern for health, the world's hungry, the environment, and animals. They are interested in how vegetarianism, and diet in general, relates to Christianity. For this reason, many Christians have already become vegetarian, or are well on their way to doing so. (See "Vegetarianism as Stewardship.")

Nevertheless, it seems that Christianity fails to attract many vegetarians. Further, some vegetarians have left their churches, because they have felt that their local congregations have not shown respect for their sound dietary choices. I personally know at least three such individuals who have fallen away from the church on account of certain church members' closed minds and/or open mouths.

Eating meat, then, has become a stumbling block for these vegetarians and would- be believers. In Hebrews 10:25, Paul says "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." But some vegetarians find it difficult to continue attending unsupportive congregations. Allowing these Christians to leave, or even feel neglected or ridiculed in the first place, on account of diet is frowned upon explicitly by Scripture.

I believe the Bible permits meat-eating, but the apostle Paul makes clear that no Christian's diet should cause another to stumble. He said, "It is better not to eat meat . . . or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall" (Romans 14:21). Paul himself indicated he personally would go to considerable lengths not to let diet interfere with another's faith, altering his own diet for the sake of a fellow believer: "...if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall" (I Cor. 8:13).

Therefore, without examining the other good ethical, health, and environmental reasons for not eating meat today, I believe there is sound biblical basis for Christians -- whether or not they are active missionaries or evangelists -- to consider becoming vegetarian.

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