CTT | A Thought on Christian Liberty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s take a look at a systematic approach to proselytizing, and see if you can identify what is being presented as good news here:

  1. You’re sick. You aren’t nearly as healthy as you think you are. Somewhere, deep down inside, you know you’re not complete. There’s something missing in your life and you’ve filled your life full of empty or even poisonous things that are killing you. Don’t you feel like life could be better?
  2. Have you settled for surviving, when you should be thriving and living prosperously and in great health? Whether it’s pride, rebellion, or fear of failure, you need to humble yourself and accept that how you’ve been living life all this time has been wrong, self-indulgent, and self-destructive.
  3. There is a way out. There are a lot of counterfeits out there, lots of empty promises, lots of people claiming that their truth is THE truth only for their systems to crumble into falsehood and despair. I have good news for you, and I stand here before you as a witness to its power and meaning. I’m not selling anything, I’m sharing what I believe to be the Truth.
  4. But it won’t be easy. While some might issue challenges to “give it a try”, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t about experimenting with something incrementally. If you’re ready for real change, meaningful change, your entire life will have to change. You must turn away from the way you’ve been doing life, and follow the narrow path to new life that I’m presenting to you today.
  5. You’ll need to throw out the old, don’t hold onto the things of the past, they will only hold you down and tempt you to fall away. They might even cause you pain. Your friends won’t understand why you no longer live life the way they do. But once they see how much more happy and healthy and powerful you’ve become, they’ll ask you what is different in your life, and then they’ll be ready to listen. Then they’ll taste and see. And perhaps, they, too, will come out of the dead-end, fruitless life, they’ve grown up in.

The list I’ve just provided probably looks a lot like a jab at western evangelical “give your life to Jesus” pitch. It actually wasn’t. What I presented above is what I’ve witnessed from the gospel of Atkins, Gluten-free, Vegan, and Paleo diets. Definitely a works-based religion. Are any of them inherently evil? Not at all. In fact, if you are celiac, I’ll recommend a gluten-free diet right along with the medical community. If you struggle with self-control in the area of junk foods, I might recommend a more Paleo-like diet. If you simply (for whatever reason) find meat and dairy un-palatable, I’d recommend researching vegan-best-practices. Some of these diets serve a purpose for some people who for various reasons need help making basic food decisions. None of these things is a panacea, and none of them save. Yet, I see far more aggressive food-evangelism than I do Christian.

America is Sick

However, more important than the pervasive general obesity in America, is the rampant unbelief and false doctrine that is filling society. Society is rejecting the Authority of the Bible. That’s a problem that needs constant attention. That is the role of the church, and our charge as Christians, stewards of the Gospel of God’s Grace. We are to be witness of the Truth of God’s Word.  Yes, America is overweight and generally unhealthy. Yes, we should be better stewards of the life we live by God’s grace.  As Christians, we need to keep the message clear… and sometimes proselytizing a diet (or vehemently opposing one) distracts from the Gospel. It did in the early church, with the Judeaizers. Paul dealt with it explicitly in his letter to the Romans, and he did so in a way that still find applicability today.

Romans 14 (ESV)

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables.Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.

20 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.21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

As long as we are living our lives in humility and Worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our diet (fad or real) is a matter of Christian Liberty. Only when your diet becomes an idol for you or a stumbling block for you or a brother/sister who is weak in the Faith, does Scripture have a hard say. For the mature, the prohibition from drunkenness doesn’t mandate a rejection of all things alcoholic. For the immature, such abstinence may be necessary as a guardian until maturity in self control is achieved.

Conclusion

I truly do not care how a brother or sister in the faith has chosen to eat or drink. Vegan, Paleo, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Omnivore, Kosher, doesn’t matter. Your diet isn’t a Gospel matter; your tastes in food or drink, your food allergies, or your personal distrust of processed food products are not Gospel matters. Crash diets are a concern, and the motive for such diets are generally what need to be addressed, Biblically. Faith, and the object of our Faith, is the concern, not diet. As an ominvore, I will poke fun at trendy diets and fad diets. I won’t make fun of anyone’d diet that is forced by allergies/ailments/injuries, though, that’s no fad or trend. What does draw my ire, and what has led to this post, is when Christians lose sight of the line between nutrition and Gospel. The Scriptures are quite clear that God has declared all food clean. So there is no Scriptural basis for insisting on any particular diet, or even suggesting that one diet is morally superior to another. I fell victim to this before, where I noticed I was proselytizing a diet more naturally and aggressively than I was the Gospel. That was a problem for me, and I am now hyper sensitive to it.

Dear Christians, in your desire to live a more healthy lifestyle, guard your hearts. It is far too easy for our sinful hearts to slip into idolatry, where our faith gets misplaced in our health, our beauty, our fitness, our diet, our uniqueness, etc. And while we will not agree on the best flavor of ice-cream… or on whether or not one should even eat ice-cream, we will live in unity of the Faith, the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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