Christians and Religious Food Laws (Bray)

 Genesis 9:1-17 is a major story and text in the history of redemption. In fact, it’s still very applicable to us today in our context.  While the detailed laws and regulations in the Mosaic covenant applied specifically to that nation then and there, the regulations in Genesis 9 are applicable even today since God’s words in Genesis 9 were post-flood echoes of creational ordinances.

Speaking of this, in Genesis 9:3-4 God gives these regulations: “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (NASB).  I appreciate how Gerald Bray discusses this in chapter 15 of “God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.” After dealing with these verses in Genesis 9, he talks about the food laws in the Mosaic covenant. Then Bray writes,

The food laws of the Old Testament do not apply to Christians because the purpose for which they were given has come to an end. Ancient Israel was told to distinguish itself from the surrounding nations in many different ways, of which abstinence from certain kinds of food was only one. Some people have tried to find hygienic reasons for the prohibition of things like pork, but there is no evidence to suggest that this was God’s intention or that it corresponds to any scientific fact. There is no natural logic that determines what the Israelites could or could not eat; the rationale for the food laws was given by God, who wanted his people to understand that his holiness meant that they must be set apart from the rest of the world in every aspect of their lives.

The coming of Christ broke down those ancient barriers because he defined the principle of holiness in a new way. Material objects would no longer be used to determine or signify the sincerity of the people’s dedication to God, and so the food laws passed into history, although the apostles made provision for a transitional phase to ease the consciences of Jewish converts who had been brought up under the old system. For that reason, the church has always said that there is nothing wrong with observing the food laws, and it has been particularly tolerant of Jewish believers in this respect, but it has also insisted that such observance cannot be made a condition for church membership.

What is true of the Old Testament food laws is also true of any other form of diet. There may be good medical reasons for eating some things and not others, and Christians would be foolish to disregard the advice of those specially trained in the field, but that is a completely different matter. It is one of the curiosities of modern life that the word “sin” is often used in advertising particularly rich foods, as in “a sinful amount of chocolate cake,” but there is nothing sinful about the cake, or even about eating it. Overeating is clearly a bad idea, but to use the language of sin to describe it is wrong.

Christians are called by God to take care of themselves physically, because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Things likely to be harmful to the body should not be consumed, whatever they are. What our bodies can take will vary from one person to another, though excessive consumption of anything should be avoided. Physical fitness should be pursued as far as is reasonably possible as a means of subduing the body and of making us fit for the service of God, but it is not an end in itself and must never take the place of the service we owe to him. The worship of the body is just as idolatrous as the worship of any other created thing, and Christians must learn to keep it in its place along with everything else that God has given for us to enjoy.

 Gerald Bray, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 286–287.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

 

 

Taking Care of Yourself (Murray)

 In our fast-paced digital world where everyone is always on the move, it happens quite often that we end up not taking good care of ourselves.  We are in a hurry, so we eat convenient foods that are unhealthy, foods that are not good fuel for our bodies and brains.  We don’t have time to exercise or get outside much, so we put on extra weight and lose mobility and flexibility.  We stay up late staring at a screen, so we get less than 7 hours of sleep most nights.  We spend too much time on our phones and social media, so we kill our attention spans and hamstring our mental capabilities.  We have so much to do that we rarely take serious downtime to relax and reflect.  Sometimes all of these things weigh us down to the point of anxiety attacks or depression. At minimum, these things seriously sap us as humans – as Christians – and keep us from having a fuller life.

David and Shona Murray talk about all these things in their excellent book, Refresh.  In fact, one reason they wrote this book is because Shona did experience panic attacks and depression.  Through her experience, she learned the hard way about a more balanced and biblical lifestyle.  I appreciate how the authors note that we are complex creatures, so fatigue, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and the like aren’t always simply a result of personal sin.  There are various other factors that sometimes intertwine.  Shona says that “one of the biggest breakthroughs on the way to healing comes when we take that holistic approach to causes and cures” (p. 49).

This book isn’t a moralistic guide to better living.  Instead, it’s a Christian approach to life that emphasizes the fact that since we belong to Christ – body and soul – we need to manage our lives for his glory.  We have to take care of the body which Christ bought by his death, the body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit, the body in which Paul calls us to glorify God (1 Cor. 6:18-19).  I appreciate how Murray shoots for a good balance in these areas, not calling us to extremes, but thoughtful moderation.  Balance is the key!

If your life is a whirlwind and you really feel cruddy quite often, I’d recommend this book.  Or, if you would like some wise Christian direction for a balanced lifestyle, you’d appreciate this book.  As I said in an earlier post, although it is sort of aimed at women, men can for sure benefit from it as well.  I implemented some of the suggestions in the book, and it has helped my concentration and studies already.  I’m sure it’ll be a blessing to you as well.

David and Shona Murray, Refresh (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

Diets, Exercise, Food: A Biblical Perspective

Love to Eat, Hate to Eat: Breaking the Bondage of Destructive Eating Habits When it comes to diet and exercise, there are two extremes.  One is to exercise too little at eat too much.  The other is to exercise too much and eat too little.  While it’s unhealthy and sinful to be a lazy glutton, it’s also unhealthy and sinful to be an exercise addict who is a slave to the scale, pedometer, and calorie counter.

As Christians, we want a balance here: self-control and moderation are some key words to think about.  We don’t want to end up in either extreme, where food is an idol or the ideal body or weight is an idol.  In her book Love to Eat, Hate to Eat Elyse Fitzpatrick gives excellent biblical counsel in this area.  I mentioned this resource last week (here).  This week I want to emphasize a different theme of this solid book: the sixth commandment (“you shall not murder”).

“I would imagine that the thought of actually murdering someone is far from most of us. …This is as it should be.  But, is it possible that we could be guilty of a kind of murder ourselves by the way we treat our bodies?”

“According to the Westminster Larger Catechism, some of the duties required by the sixth commandment include the following: ‘to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away of life of any …a sober use of meat, drink …sleep, labor, and recreations.'”

“I know that the way those words are written is antiquated.  We hardly speak of a ‘sober’ use of meat or drink anymore.  But I think there is real truth here.  In more modern terms, the writers of this catechism believed that the sixth commandment taught not only that we must protect others’ lives, but that we also had an obligation to protect our own life.”

“We must be careful to avoid overeating or starvation, drunkenness, and overwork.  We must moderate our recreations so that we do not ruin our health by them, and we must not work so hard that we neglect God’s command to preserve our life through Sabbath rest.  Wherever you are in your lifespan – whether you are a young woman, full of strength and vitality, or a middle-aged woman feeling strong and yet recognizing that youth has passed, or an older woman struggling with declining health – you must look at the body you now have as a precious gift from your Lord to care for.”

“…Just remember that caring for your body is not the goal of life – glorifying and loving God is.  Caring for your body is merely a means to an end and one way to say thank you to the Lord for all of the things He has done for you” (p. 59-60).

Elyse Fitzpatrick, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1999).

Shane Lems

The Thin Idol (Or: The Idolatry of Being Thin)

We would be wrong if we thought that eating disorders and obsession with weight and size were things that only teenage girls struggled with.  In fact, many adult women struggle with these things, as do men of various ages.  In our superficial culture where outward appearance is everything, it’s easy for us to become obsessed with our looks.  How many (dangerous) fad diets have come and gone, and come back?  How many fad exercise routines and regiments have come and gone, and come back?  This is even tough on Christians; sometimes our desire to be a certain weight or size is stronger than our desire to follow Christ.  Yes, I’m thinking of idolatry.

Because Elyse Fitzpatrick understands these struggles, she wrote Love to Eat, Hate to EatThis isn’t a Christian dieting or Christian exercise book.  Instead, it’s a Bible-filled guide on following Christ without being enslaved to diet, exercise, weight, or size.  I’m not quite finished with the book, but so far I really appreciate it because it has reminded me of the biblical perspective on these things.  For example, here’s one helpful selection:

“…I’m going to say something that may seem rather surprising.  You know, I’ve read the Bible straight through many times, and I’ve never found any Scripture that commands or even commends thinness!  Think of that.  I don’t believe that there is any verse in either the Old or New Testament that encourages Christians to be thin or states that being thin is a mark of godliness.  Keeping in mind the fact that God’s Word, the Bible, is our guide for life, it appears that many of us (including me) have spent much of our lives chasing after something that God doesn’t seem to think is very important.”

“[However,] just because God doesn’t command thinness doesn’t mean that we should ignore our health or our eating habits. …While there are some biblical concerns that can be brought to bear on our health and eating habits – such as learning to desire only Him, thinking about your life the way that He does, and learning to discern whether your eating habits are godly – the whole matter of ‘thinness for thinness’ sake’ isn’t one of them.”

“Seeking after thinness merely for appearance’s sake is not a godly goal.  That’s because it falls into the categories that we have already been discussing – such as the pursuit of outward beauty (which the Bible calls vanity) and all of its attending futility.  The kind of beauty that God desires for you is found in 1 Peter 3:4: ‘…the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit.’  It is called the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (the results of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life) in Galatians 5:22-23…. [It is found in Proverbs 31:] “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Elyse Fitzpatrick, Love to Eat, Hate to Eat (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1999), 45-46.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI