Tag Archives: Romans

Weighed in the Balance and Found Wandering

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.  I can testify about them that they have zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Since they are ignorant of the righteousness of God and attempted to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. —Romans 10:1-3

A friend of mine has been struggling for quite some time with a religious rift within his home. While he is a diligent, Bible-believing Christian, his wife is . . . how should I say it? She’s out in left field. More specifically, she’s managed to get herself connected with a sect that “majors on the minors.” These people think it is super important that REAL Christians worship on Saturday rather than Sunday. They insist on calling Jesus Yeshua and keeping some of the Jewish holidays.

I realize that someone could make a case for Saturday worship, and I know people who pray in the name of Yeshua and observe Passover. To my mind there’s nothing at all wrong with those things, but when we make one or more of those things the litmus test for True Believerhood, then I think we’re doing the exact sort of thing that Paul lamented the Jews of his day doing.

You don’t have to look around the Christian world very far to find examples of this sort of thing. My Church of Christ friends decline to have instrumental music in their churches (which is certainly their right), but they tend to make that practice a dividing line. Some Pentecostal friends insist that one absolutely must be baptized in the name of Jesus–and only in the name of Jesus–for a baptism to count. Do they honestly believe that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for me and then will leave me high and dry because Pastor C. baptized me with the wrong words way back when?

But lest I get too full of myself, too sure of my own rightness, I have to confess that I take a dim view of churches that baptize infants. I’m pretty confident that infant baptism is not scriptural, but is God going to reject a Jesus-believing Episcopal? And along the same lines, what of baptism by immersion? That’s the scriptural pattern, but if you believe in your heart and confess with your tongue, is God going to throw you into Purgatory because you were sprinkled?

I’m pretty sure that my friend’s wife is walking down the wrong road, but I’m also sure that the God of Creation will indulge some error on the part of those who believe. My prayer is that this woman, and those with whom she worships, will actually make that connection.

Cheat Days?

Pile of Junk FoodI weigh in on Fridays, so, after tipping the scale and recording my weight, I often look at Friday as a day on which not to get too worked up about my food intake. This can range from a day on which I simply don’t record all of my food to a full-blown cheat day.

A few years ago, I planned a Friday cheat day into my schedule. Called “Lousy Eating Day,” those Fridays often saw me at the school’s food court sliding a tray with both a double cheeseburger and cheese fries toward the cash register.

These days, I usually reserve my “lousy eating” until I’m home from work. Then I can take Penny out somewhere indulgent. Last night, after eating a very sensible dinner at home, we splurged on Sheridan’s Frozen Custard, me opting for my favorite, E.T.’s Charming Cheesecake Concrete (with Heath bar chunks). The only thing bad about that confection is when you eat the last bite.

If that concrete had been my own dietary transgression, then I wouldn’t feel any qualms this morning, but I also snacked a bit too much as I watched the Royals win a ballgame that evening.

The idea of cheat days is well established in at least popular diet and weight loss writing. Google the term and you’ll find all sorts of opinions ranging from the psychological to the physiological. I’d like to take up the question of cheat days from a theological perspective. As a Christian, is it acceptable for me to cheat on my diet now and again?

I used the word “transgression” earlier on purpose. Sin is a serious thing in our worldview, so we wouldn’t entertain the notion of a cheat day for adultery or murder or idolatry or stealing. “I just punched out my spouse, but that’s okay. After all, it’s Tuesday!” No, that would be ridiculous.

We have been forgiven all of our sins, past, present, and future, yet Paul makes it clear that this does not mean we should take a casual view of sin. In Romans 6:1-2, he quickly shoots down the notion of sinning more so that grace can abound. This would seem to suggest that cheat days are as inimical to the Christian life as “Buddha Days.”

But is “cheating” on your diet really the same as cheating on your marriage vows or bowing down to an idol? I’m going to argue that the answer to that is “no” for a trio of reasons.

First, your diet neednot be a day-by-day thing or a meal-by-meal thing. I frequently keep my food intake low at breakfast and lunch so that I can indulge a bit more at dinner. Similarly, if I balance things out so that one cheat day is offset by six “faithful” days, am I really cheating at all?

Second, didn’t Jesus condone, or at least enable, a cheat day? The only miracle to appear in all four gospels is the feeding of the 5,000. In Matthew 14:20 we learn that the people there that day all “ate and were satisfied.” I take that to mean that they ate as much as they wanted to. I can’t really see these Galilean peasants pushing aside plentiful, free food and saying, “Oh no, I really shouldn’t. I’m trying to cut down.”

Finally, the particulars of your diet are not points of obedience to God. Weare called to be a stewards over our bodies, but God leaves the details up to us. I believe that the putting aside of the Jewish dietary laws illustrate this aspect of Christian liberty. If I”cheat” today by eating a cheesecake concrete without putting my body back on the course to obesity, then I am still being true to my obligations.

Cheating on a diet is not the same as cheating in a relationship. In fact, “cheat day” is probably an unfortunate term for a Christian. That’s why I intend to reintroduce the much more acceptable name, “Lousy Eating Day.”

Enjoy your indulgences so long as they do not prevent you from maintaining what God has provided you.

The 3,500-Calorie Rule is Malarkey

It turns out that everything I thought I knew is wrong. Or maybe not. For years we’ve been taught that burning 3,500 calories will make you lose a pound. Like so many things in the realm of diet and nutrition, this is just way too simple apparently.

The video below provides a brief overview of how weight loss might be viewed differently.

It occurs to me, after watching this video, that there’s a good bit of truth here–not just scientific truth but spiritual truth. Compare the idea of weight loss as described in the video, with the gradually flattening chart line, to the sanctification that we experience after salvation. Have you ever been frustrated by your lack of progress in losing the “fat” of sin? Think of Paul’s words in Romans 7:15: “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

There are no diet pills to eliminate sin and the math of sanctification isn’t particularly simple. However, unlike with weight loss, we have a uniquely effective personal trainer to assist in the effort. And He’ll help with the weight loss for no extra charge.

Building and Burning (Hebrews 1:9)

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Hebrews 1:9)

In William Faulkner’s story “Barn Burning,” a boy struggles between family loyalty and doing the right thing. His sharecropper father, a charming fellow, takes out his frustrations with his landlords by burning down their barns. The son, Sarty, learned his image of manhood from this father and stands prepared to lie for the man in the court case that opens the story, yet he somehow knows that this is not the proper way to reconcile differences.

How does a boy, growing up under the tutelage of a wicked man, learn to embrace righteousness and hate wickedness? According to Romans, those who live without the law still have the law written on their hearts. They know. Young Sarty knows, despite the natural bonds of familial loyalty that tell him otherwise.

Within each human being, two forces wrestle for control. The forces of righteousness seek to build up the barn, while the forces of wickedness or sin seek to steal, kill, and destroy, to burn down the barn. Few, if any, people live utterly wicked lives, lives with no redeeming features. Certainly none of us lives utter virtuous lives, lives where the love of righteousness has managed to triumph utterly over its adversary. Such a person would be justified by the law, and we’ve seen clearly in Paul’s writing that no one finds justification through the law.

In this introductory passage to Hebrews, the author seeks to set Jesus apart from all other beings in the universe. Jesus is not chief among the angels, nor is he just another man. He is simultaneously God and man, and as such, he managed to perfectly love righteousness and hate wickedness. You and I will never manage to equal his zeal in those pursuits, but our proper response is to try.