Tag Archives: freedom in Christ

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.

set in stone? really?

22 Mar

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted the following question as a status update on Facebook:

“As someone who has done mission work, would you say that it is important to figure out ahead of time those doctrinal matters that are not open for multiple interpretations? I’ve been struggling with this idea that there are certain things that are universal, gospel truth, and other things that are simply products of our culture, and how do we tell the difference as we take the message of Christ to other cultures?”

For those who don’t know, my husband Ed and I worked full-time with a small church in Chemnitz, Germany, from 2001-2007. Our primary function was to “surface contacts” for the church and then have one-on-one Bible studies with those who were interested in delving beneath the surface. I could write an entire book on this work and on all the other things we did during our time in Chemnitz, but for now, let’s make do with the short version, what say? ; )

With that to give a little bit of background, here is the response I gave to my friend’s question:

I’ve been pondering such things since “leaving” the mission field four years ago. (I don’t really like using the terms “leaving” and “mission field,” but they keep things simple.)

The only thing I know for sure is that if I were entering the same work today, I would (1) see my own role much differently, (2) approach relationships differently, (3) teach some things that I didn’t understand 10 years ago…

…and (4), in regard to this question, *not* teach several things that I once believed were “universal, gospel truth.”

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I do believe that there are universal truths in/of the gospel (defining gospel as the Good News of Jesus). But an interesting thing I’ve found about living life by an indwelling Christ: The more deeply rooted I’ve become in Christ, the more I’ve realized that I misunderstood a great many things and held fast to certain “doctrines” that, as it turns out, aren’t nearly as set-in-stone as they once seemed.

The result, unfortunately, is that I can look back over the course of my full-time ministry and see quite a few places where I totally screwed up.

(For the record, I don’t beat myself up about this; I believe that God can and does [and did] work powerfully through a flawed tool and will continue to do so [seeing as how the tool is still flawed!].)

I might go so far as to say that it’s dangerous to “figure out ahead of time those doctrinal matters that are not open for multiple interpretations”; I say this because of my own experience in realizing that the indwelling life of Christ allows us a whole lot more freedom than I ever suspected.

On the other hand, nor do I advocate entering the “mission field” with any kind of there-is-no-absolute-truth attitude. Maybe it’s about “everything in moderation”: finding a balance between the two. Maybe it’s not about balance but about accepting the season of Christian life one finds oneself in and going forward in faith that God will guide as he sees fit — and humbly accepting his correction along the way.

All I know for certain is that Christ is in the business of “making all things new” — and that includes our understanding of doctrine, if we let him.

we are everywhere in chains

21 Nov

Back when I was a fulltime missionary (2001-2007) and until January of this year, I kept a blog called thegermanygirl: ruminations.

The reasons I haven’t posted on that blog in nearly a year are myriad, but suffice it to say that because of my many other endeavors, I simply haven’t had time to ruminate anything for the “old” blog.

But.

When I checked my email this morning, I found a notification of a new comment on one of my thegermanygirl posts. The comment and my reply to it are worth sharing here:

“Tony” writes:

I see from your Profile that you believe that “Jesus sacrificed himself for the eternal freedom of humanity”.

Most people agree with Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains”: this must mean that the sacrifice was in vain.

I guess you must have read him, so presumably your observation of the world differs from Rousseau’s. Or perhaps two thousand years has not been enough, and we must wait longer for our eternal freedom.

I replied:

You might think it strange enough, but I agree with Rousseau (whom I have, indeed, read). I’ve never belonged to that segment of the Christian population that believes in original sin; I have never believed that any of us is born tainted. We are truly born free in every sense of the word. We are born innocent, untainted, fresh, new.

But I believe we put ourselves in chains as we carry on our lives and make our choices. We say and do things that cause each other pain, and each word or action that causes pain is just another chain we clamp around our own wrists. There is not a single one of us who has not caused harm to another.

We are “everywhere in chains” because we lock ourselves away from each other and lock ourselves away from the one power in the universe that can break down all the doors and unlock all the chains.

The sacrifice that Jesus made was not in vain, because the freedom he offers is available to anyone who wants it. The crux of the matter is that he can’t give freedom to those who don’t want it. He won’t force his freedom on anyone. Each of us will spend eternity exactly the way we want to. And that’s the most liberating part of the whole deal.

____________________________

I hope my response to Tony will challenge him to think further on Christ instead of pushing him away. It’s so difficult to know how my typed words will come across to someone who lives on the other side of the world (I checked his Blogger profile). Communicating tone is nigh on impossible in blog comment format! Ugh. And we’re missing every nuance of body language, which tells so much more than words.

Still, I hope that I said what Christ would want me to say and in the way he would want me to say it. That’s pretty much all I can do.