Do you abstain from eating at others’ houses or with other people out of fear that they might expect you to eat something that’s against your diet?
Do you share your views on food and diet with more passion than you share the Gospel?
Are you more dogmatic about making converts to your dietary system than converts to Christianity?
Do you look down on others who occasionally feed their kids Oreos or McDonald’s milkshakes?
If we were to look through your Facebook timeline, Twitter feed, or other social media accounts, would we find an overwhelming amount of posts and comments concerning specific dietary convictions compared to posts concerning your Christian convictions?
Slaves of Food vs. Slaves of Christ.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.”
If you had asked me a while back whether Paul’s instructions in Romans 14 concerning Christian eating habits were of much use in the contemporary church, I would have probably said, “No.” However, in the past ten years, it is amazing how the issue of Christians and food restrictions has re-emerged among God’s people.
As more articles, blogs, and books focus on theories of food, diet, and health it is interesting that much of this discussion has been well-accepted in the Christian community. It’s understandable; Christians over and above all other people should show respect to their bodies because they are gracious gifts from God. However, the danger in all of this is to allow a good thing get in the way of the best thing.
Some of the questions at the opening of this post are hard questions for me to answer, but they get at the point Paul is making in Romans 14: Are you a slave to food or a slave to Christ? Has a good thing gotten in the way of the best thing that has ever happened to you–namely, salvation in Jesus Christ? If you are a believer, your identity is now hidden in Christ. Your number one priority in conversations, in living, in everything you do is to promote Christ and to build up his Body–the Church.
Paul insists that food must always maintain its lowly place way down the list of priorities in the life of the believer–well after brotherly love, peace, hope, patience, holiness, righteousness, forgiveness, zeal for the Gospel, etc.
The truth is that even the healthiest diet will still lead the mortal flesh toward the grave eventually. The difference between a servant of Jesus and a servant of food is that the one who serves Jesus will sacrifice everything for the sake of Christ’s Gospel, while the servant of food will sacrifice everything for the sake of their dietary Gospel. A food slave has no qualms about offending a brother over an issue of food. A Christ slave would rather eat gravel than tear down his brother or injure the Gospel.
Which Body Is Most Important?
In Matthew 15, Jesus confronts the Pharisees with this statement: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Jesus’s point is that the Pharisees are more wrapped up in what passes into their mouths than what proceeds from their hearts. They were continually establishing laws to prevent impurities from entering their bodies, but vile sin and true spiritual impurity was spewing forth from their wicked hearts.
If we spend loads of time sussing out what can and cannot be eaten in order to stay in our healthiest shape, and yet sin, perversion, anger, and hatred are pouring forth from our heart and out of our mouths, then our physical health is an absolute waste. Better that we sort out our sin issues first, and our food issues second.
We have to gain some perspective. Ultimately, what body matters most? Are we more concerned with building up and maintaining our personal bodies than we are with building up and maintaining the Body of Christ?
How’s your church looking? Is it out of shape, feeding on unhealthy spiritual garbage food–unloving, uncoordinated, and lazy? And yet your fridge is filled with all kinds of organic vegetables and free-range chicken, your mouth is filled with debates about dietary rules and regulations, your schedule is filled with trips to the gym, and your concerns are constantly centered on personal health of your body…Shouldn’t the health of Christ’s body be our number one priority, no matter what?
I’m preaching to myself here as much as anyone else. I exercise regularly, and our family eats pretty healthy. Perhaps this can help us all put things into perspective: What would our churches look like if we started to spend even half as much time on the health of Christ’s body as we do on our personal bodies?