Reading the lists of clean and unclean foods and animals found in the Bible can seem pointless, even extremely antiquated. Yet, there is a rabbinic teaching that says the lists of clean and unclean food are not so much about the food, but about us. We should not take on, as we might say, the qualities of forbidden foods.
But what of the stork? It’s on the forbidden list (Deut. 14:18), but why?
Stork in Hebrew is חֲסִידָה/ḥăsîḏâ, meaning: the kind bird, stork. It’s from the root חָסִיד/ḥāsîḏ, meaning pious, godly, holy, merciful, saint. Aren’t these good qualities? Well, yes. We are to be holy disciples of Messiah, saints. Appearances, however, can sometimes be deceiving.
The stork identified in the Bible was recognized for its kindly, compassionate behavior, but only to storks of its kind. Towards other birds, they were noted to be cruel at times.
The message is simple, our kindness, godliness, mercy, and grace is to extend beyond those of our own “kind,” beyond those like us. We cannot adopt a storks faith. We must recognize the image of God in the human other, even those we do not know, recognize or relate to, and respond according to His Word.
Messiah examples this for us in John 4, by His interaction with the Samaritan woman of unsavory character, delivering a message of forgiveness and recovery. Also, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10), making a recognized enemy the hero of the drama. Messiah warns against acting hypocritically, directing us to act faithfully (Lev. 19:18, 34).
It is easy to act in a kindly manner toward those most like ourselves; but we do not live righteousness in a vacuum. We live His Word in a complex world, with many different peoples, and customs.
Take the kindness the Living God has shown you, show it to those close to you, but also to those you do not know, probably would choose not to know, and there, you will learn the depths of His amazing grace. Difficult, but God. Hallelujah!
Be well. Shalom.