the obesity epidemic in america’s churches

6 Jun

This morning, I read the following article: The Obesity Epidemic in America’s Churches. I encourage you to click through and read it in its entirety, but here is the quote that most struck me:

The contemporary church culture has unwittingly contributed to the rise in overweight and obese parishioners. Today it is rare to hear a sermon preached on the stewardship of the physical body and even more rare on the vice of gluttony; it has become a secret and acceptable vice in the modern church.

Tables at potlucks strain under the weight of pound cakes, pizza, fried chicken and cheesecake and fellowship is not considered complete without these rich, decadent –and yes addictive foods.

The sacred Sunday ritual between services is donuts, bagels and cream cheese, and coffee with cream and sugar.

And finally, Platonic dualism, the belief that the spirit is sacred and the physical body is corrupt and inconsequential, perpetuates this problem and assists many in justifying unhealthy nutritional habits.

~Scott Stoll, M.D.

Stoll mentions and succinctly summarizes the concept of Platonic dualism, and I agree with him that it is an underlying cause of the problem, as are the unhealthy eating habits and the refusal to acknowledge the problem — ooooh, dare I call it “sin”? — publicly.

But I think there’s a root cause beneath all of this, and I think the root is lack of understanding of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 lays out pretty clearly what the fruit of the spirit is: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Self-control, of course, is the quality that most applies to an obesity epidemic among Christians. Right?

Maybe. Note that in the Galatians 5 passage, “fruit” is singular. Not plural. Paul doesn’t mention the “fruitS of the spirit,” a common misquote. As far as Paul is concerned, there is ONE fruit of the spirit. The spirit produces ONE fruit, not many. To pluralize the fruit is to misunderstand the thrust of what the apostle is trying to tell us.

We live in a society of paramount choice. We must have our variety. We must have our options. To be presented with only ONE of something is an insult. We deserve more than that! We want what we want, and if we don’t see what we want, we expect someone to offer it to us. Why settle for a single, lovingly handmade meal, when we can head out to the buffet and have more choices than we could ever possibly consume in one sitting?

“I’m working on being more patient.”
“Last year, I tried really hard to look for more ways to show kindness.”
“Yeah, things are rough, but I’m trying to be more content (joyful) with what I have.”

How may times have I made statements like that? How many times have you? As if any of us could increase our patience, our goodness, our generosity by any effort of our own. As if we could “pick one fruit” and then, after “working on that” for a certain amount of time, move on to “the next fruit” and chew on that one until we’re satisfied.

People, there is only one fruit of the spirit. And that fruit is Christ. He is love. He is patience. Christ IS self-control. These are not things that we need to “work on”! These are qualities that HE IS! If you have Christ, then you have joy. If you have Christ, then you have peace. You don’t need to pray for patience — if you have Christ, then you already have all the patience you could ever need and more.

The fullness of God dwells in Christ. So, if you have Christ, the fullness of God dwells inside you. If you have Christ, then the unique, singular fruit of the spirit is growing and ripening and multiplying in you.

If we find it difficult to be kind to others, then I submit that we’re not consuming the fruit of the spirit.

If we find it difficult to practice faithfulness, then I submit that we’re not consuming the fruit of the spirit.

If we find it difficult to exercise self-control — whether in our actions, our words, or specifically our eating habits — then I submit that we’re not consuming the fruit of the spirit.

If the fruit of the spirit is not growing in us, then I submit that we don’t have Christ.

Instead, maybe what we have is a sham. Instead, maybe what we have is a mere seeming. Instead, maybe what we have is self-delusion.

Or maybe what we have is such a tiny fraction of our vast Lord, the growth of the spirit’s fruit within us can be nothing but twisted and stunted.

“Test everything. Keep what is good” (1. Thess. 5:21). I submit that this applies to our understanding of the spirit’s fruit. If our understanding is rotten, we need to throw it out and start over.


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