How can we witness or evangelise to a vegan or vegetarian friend when the God we are sharing allowed and required something as barbaric as animal sacrifices in the old testament?
God required the sacrifice of clean, unblemished animals to cover his people’s sins. He did this because He values our salvation (eternal life) so much higher than the life of an animal. Did God enjoy the slaughter? NO! God takes no delight in sacrifice and no pleasure in burnt offerings. (God cares for the sparrows, not one falls to the ground without his knowledge; don’t muzzle the Ox when it is treading the grain).
The sacrificial practice was a foreshadowing (sign to prepare) of things to come. It was to show that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood and to show that mankind cannot be saved by their own merit.
Animal sacrifices came at a cost and His Son’s death came at an even greater cost. Would your vegan friend sacrifice a lamb to save their own child’s life? Of course they would. Would it still cost them some pain, yes, but that is what a sacrifice is.
We cannot earn salvation by OUR works. God wanted to make sure that we understood that his son, Jesus (the Lamb without blemish who was slain), takes away our sins (it is not our good works). So where the law failed, the sacrifice succeeded.
Every old testament law points towards the work of Jesus. When Jesus came to earth as our savior, He fulfilled every law.
We can learn more about Christ’s fulfillment and the Grace of God by studying those laws, but we are not under those laws anymore, because Christ fulfilled them.
If we love God with all our heart and love others with all out heart, then we are being obedient to God. We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus.
Similarly, the 4th commandment (keep the Sabbath) is all about resting from our works. And just like circumcision was a covenant that foreshadowed the cutting off of the old (rebirth, born again experience), so the old testament Sabbath rest commandment foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus being sufficient for our salvation so that we have now entered his rest (eternal life apart from our works). There will of course be good fruit as a result of our rebirth, but our salvation is not dependent on it. There is also timeless, divine wisdom in resting one day per week. Bosses should not drive their workers into the ground, seven days per week either, regardless of their religious beliefs.
So the whole sacrificial parallel is an awesome illustration of God’s love and mercy towards mankind. Knowing how much your friend values the life of animals, you can show them through the above, that every sacrifice comes at a cost and that God’s love for them was so great that he was prepared to allow his own son whom he loved, to be slaughtered on their behalf, because he loved them so much.