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Blood and transfusion

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Having studied with the Jehovah's Witnesses for a certain period of time I can't help but comment on some of
their doctrines. This doesn't mean that I want to talk against them. Not at all! I have respect for their ardent zeal
and for their sincere Christian commitment. I have the same feelings toward them that Paul expressed in Romans
10:2 “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” As such, I will not
attempt to belittle or berate their beliefs. Rather, I will attempt to explain why I disagree with their position.

One of the most intriguing doctrines they have is the one about taking in blood. This doctrine has his origin in
Acts 15:19-21,28-28 which reads, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the
Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from
fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to
send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by
mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary
things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from
fornication: from which if ye keep ourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”

The reason why the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in blood transfusions comes mostly from the above
mentioned statement of Paul as found in Acts. However, to me, it seems a big stretch to say that just because we
shouldn’t eat meat with blood in it, that also means we should not have any blood transfusion either. If we take a
closer look at Acts 15, we can see that the early Christian church and it’s teachings were not fully developed.
There were still a lot of unanswered questions, especially concerning the finer points of it’s doctrines. Since
there were so many Gentiles who were converting to Christianity, the church leaders had to institute rules and
clarify it’s teachings in order to keep the new converts from mingling their old religious beliefs with the true
gospel of Christ.

In Acts 15 we read of a conference that was held in Jerusalem around 50 A.D. by the church leaders to discuss
some of the pressing issues of the day that were of concern to it’s members. In this case, they were discussing
whether or nor the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles. When it was decided to allow this practice, it was
further decided that the saints should be told to “abstain from meats offered to idols and from things strangled, and
from blood.”

This instruction was put in a letter which was to be delivered to all the churches. It would be interesting to have
that letter today. I’m sure it contains much more than 4 verses that we have in our Bible. We are then told in
verses 30 and 31 “So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude
together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.”

The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that since we are not to eat meat with blood in it, that also means we are not to
take foreign blood into our system. Therefore, they don't accept blood transfusions because they believe that is
just another way to take blood in our body. But is this the correct interpretation of what was meant? Let's analyze
the scriptures a little closer.

Before converting to Christianity, most Gentiles offered sacrifices of meat to their pagan gods. As a Christian,
such a practice would not be consistent with a belief in Christ, therefore, they were told to “abstain from meats
offered to idols.” However, this does not mean that they couldn’t eat the meat. It just means that they were not
suppose to eat the meat which was offered to idols. The reason for this is because it could be misinterpreted as
them still worshipping their old pagan gods. On the other hand, there was nothing wrong with eating the same
kind of meat, as long as it hadn’t been offered as a sacrifice to one of the idols. And the same is true when it
comes to the issue of blood. It isn’t the blood itself that’s the problem but the idea that it belonged to something
offered to another god.
To understand this better, let’s look at an incident found in Acts 10:10-16 where Peter “became very hungry, and
would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel
descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein
were all manner of four footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And
there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing
that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that
call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.” And verse 28
“And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or
come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
In this vision, Peter saw animals which were not permitted to eat under the law of Moses. But notice that God
gave Peter the command to slay and eat these animals. Implied in this commandment seems to be the suggestion
that he do so right away, without worrying about the blood. It could be argued that since there was no reference
to blood in Peter’s vision that we can’t assume it means we can eat meat with blood in it. Therefore, let's look at
what Paul had to say to the saints in his epistles AFTER the conference in Acts 15.
In Romans 14:2-6 we read, “For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.Let
not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God
hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea,
he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another
esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day,
regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth,
eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God
thanks.”
Here Paul clarifies what the reason was for not eating meat offered to idols. What is most interesting is that his
final conclusion is that people will not be judged because of the food they eat. What Paul says is most important is
that whatever we do, we should give thanks to God.
Paul then went on to say in Romans 14:13-17, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this
rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by
the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it
is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy
meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and
drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
The reason Paul gave for not eating idol meat was because it might make become a stumbling block for those
who’s faith is Christ is weak. Then Paul further explained in Romans 14:20-23 “For meat destroy not the work of
God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh,
nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith?
have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he
that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
Paul's explanation couldn’t be more clear than that. We have to keep in mind that he knew what was contained in
the epistle which was read at Antioch and he fully understood the Christian doctrine. Paul further elaborated on
this topic in 1 Corinthians 8:1,7-13 when he wrote, “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we
all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. Howbeit there is not in every man that
knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their
conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better;
neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your's become a stumbling
block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall
not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And
through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the
brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend,
I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”

Even more clear than this is what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:23-31 “All things are lawful for me, but all things
are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man
another's wealth. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: For the
earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed
to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, this
is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the
Lord's, and the fullness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of
another man's conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give
thanks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

Paul clearly explains that Christians are free to eat whatever they want, but they have to respect the weakness of
other Christians. Because of this, sometimes it is better to forego what we would like to do rather than offend
others. I have no illusion that any Jehovah's Witness will change their mind by what I have written, but my hope is
that maybe they might want to take a second look at what Paul is really saying. If the doctrine to abstain from
eating blood in meat is misunderstood, then the other doctrine is the likewise misunderstood

In my religion, we also have a dietary law which we follow called “The Word of Wisdom” It is a good law and a
healthy one, and I feel it is wise to live by it’s teachings. One of the things it says is that we should not drink
alcoholic beverages. But if I was in the desert dying of thirst and by chance I came across a bottle of wine, I
would still drink it in order to save my life. I feel the same way towards blood transfusions. My opinion is that
Jesus gave His blood to save our life. Therefore, it seems to me that the Christian thing to do is to give our blood
to save the life of others.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 10:42  

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