Let me be clear that I am not against healthy eating. I wholeheartedly agree that what we eat has a significant affect on us, and we are to be wise stewards of our bodies. Bodily training, which includes responsible eating, is of some value (1 Timothy 4:8). But my growing concern in our Christian communities is that we be careful not to become more passionate about convincing others to feed their families the same way we do, rather than pointing them to Christ.
A dear friend of mine in women’s ministry tells me of a few passionate pleas she received to lead Bible studies on healthy eating. But does the Bible really tell us enough about what we should eat for a whole course? And do we have a right as believers to tell others what is the more biblical menu option?
Romans 14 addresses exactly these kinds of issues. Choices with food and medicine are exactly that — choices. And these fall into a gray area in the Bible known as “disputable matters.” Paul writes in Romans 14:1–4,
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.
Here one believer feels the freedom to eat meat (despite its associations with the local pagan religion), while another is convinced he can only eat vegetables. Paul states that these choices with food, even when the stakes are this high, are a matter of personal conscience. One person is not deemed more righteous or godly because of the restrictions they place on themselves, or don’t place on themselves. God has welcomed both believers — and we should too.
We should ask ourselves, Are we promoting a welcoming atmosphere when we’re strongly stating our opinions on food and medicine in a group of people? What is our tone of voice communicating to those around us when we’re explaining our lifestyle choices? Could we be repelling others by our seemingly haughty and opinionated views on things that are really a matter of personal preference?
Where Is Your Righteousness?
When we strongly identify ourselves with a certain lifestyle choice, we evidence our temptation to find our identity and righteousness in that personal preference. Eating and schooling and vaccinations are areas of personal and family choice that can easily become our cause in life. How intent are you in trying to convert someone to the same schooling method as your family? Or are you out to get everyone to use the same oils as you, while looking down on a sister in Christ who just put their child on a round of antibiotics for an illness?
If we find our conversations continually revolving around our current pet issue, it’s time to ask whether that issue has become too important in our lives. If we’re constantly passing others information about the way we eat, treat illness, or school our kids, a red flag should be raised in our minds about what we’re really putting our hope in. As Christians, we have a center and hope that far surpasses these “disputable matters.”
Our One Great Cause
Only in Christ do we find true wisdom, hope, and healing. It is his words, promises, and all-encompassing truth we should be most eager to pass along to others, not the latest studies reinforcing our family’s food choices as the wisest.
Let’s be known for what Christians are really to be known for: an unfading hope and trust in the power of Christ to change lives — no matter what you eat for breakfast.