Tag Archives: sin

Risking the S-Word

ScaleIn a recent post at Desiring God, Lindsey Carlson shares her thoughts about weight loss as it relates to spiritual life. The key thing that struck me–although the entire essay is worth your time–was the nerve that Carlson demonstrated in using the dreaded S-word. Yes, she referred to her excess weight as the result of sin.

While not everyone’s additional pounds are directly linked to sin, I know many of mine are. Historically, I’ve gone through seasons of facing my sin directly, and other seasons where I’ve completely avoided dealing with it and allowed indulgence to rule the day. However, this past year, I’ve experienced a measure of victory both in my heart and, perhaps in smaller measure, on my bathroom scale.

Too often in our society, we avoid labeling anything negative as the result of sin. Identifying something as sin requires judgment, and you can’t utter a (negative) value judgment without being reminded to “judge not lest you be judged.”

Of course, those who will spout off Matthew 7:1 have no problem with positive judgments. It’s perfectly fine in their moral economy to praise, for example, successful weight loss. Constructively criticizing overindulgent weight gain, on the other hand, cannot be labeled as sin.

If a gained pound, a smoked cigarette, a drained beer, or a watched porn video  cannot be the product of sin, then what are they? An awareness of the pervasiveness of sin in this world and, more to the point, in our individual lives stands as a powerful first step to gaining some measure of mastery over that world and those lives.

The Folly of BMI (Bad Measurement Instrument)

ScaleHave you ever had a doctor or nutritionist or some stranger on the street calculate your BMI? In my previous post, I indicated that I would be exploring some of the sources of guidance we might draw upon since the Bible is so woefully negligent in telling us anything about just how much meat we can carry around on our frames. Today, I’d like to explore BMI or Body Mass Index.

Developed by Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian scientist (but not physician), in the first half of the 19th century, BMI was an attempt to describe the relative heaviness of people. In the metric system, you take the weight (mass) of the person in kilograms and divide by the square of the person’s height in meters. To use English measurements, we divide the person’s weight in pounds by the height in inches (squared) and then multiply by 703. There the formula looks like this:

BMI = (pounds/inches²)x703

In my case, it would be worked out like this for my current weight of 190 and height of 5′ 11″.

26.49=(190/71*71)x703

My BMI of 26.49 places me pretty solidly in the overweight classification, which ranges from 25 to 30. In order to reach the top of the “normal (healthy weight)” range, I’d have to drop another 12 pounds, reaching 178.

In reality, at present, I could probably stand to lose at least 5 and maybe 10 pounds, but I hardly feel as if such loss is essential. I would agree that getting myself to 178 might have me in the “healthy weight” range, I feel confident that such a loss isn’t necessary to barely reach an acceptable place.

What is wrong with BMI? Plenty. Let me give a simple case study. Omar Infante is the 2nd baseman for the Kansas City Royals. His height is listed as identical to mine, 5’11”. His weight is 195. Therefore Infante has a BMI of 27.2, considerably higher than mine. Are you going to suggest that I have a healthier body composition than this man who is able to deftly turn double plays at a major-league level? Look at any photo of Infante and you’ll have to agree that he’s not the pudgy designated hitter body type. Does he seem healthy? Obviously.

BMI measures one thing, height vs. weight. It does not take into account the frame size of the individual. Somebody with an even higher BMI than Omar Infante is basketball star Lebron James, who comes in at 27.4. Is Lebron overweight? Hardly. He’s a big man and carries a lot of muscle. BMI does not distinguish between good weight and bad weight. It makes no distinction between muscle and fat.

I’m hardly the first to note the measurement’s flaws, but despite years of such criticism, BMI is still widely used, mostly, I would guess, because it is so simple to calculate.

Quetelet was a sociologist, not a physician. His interest was in populations rather than individuals. If you take BMI measurements for a few hundred people in Cleveland and a few hundred people in Nairobi, there might be some useful conclusions to draw from the findings. But BMI is not a terribly useful measurement for individuals, except that it provides doctors with a club to wield on their heavier patients: “Well, your BMI of 30.3 indicates that you are obese!”

To measure individuals using such a population-oriented tool is somewhat like measuring the sin of an individual in comparison with a population. If my SMI (Sin Massiveness Index) is low enough in comparison to those around me, then I can just go into maintenance mode, right? And if my SMI is higher than those around me, then I should feel like a terrible person. Have you ever been in a church where people seemed a bit complacent with their SMI? Or met people who felt unworthy of their church because of their particular SMI? That’s no way to think about your holiness. BMI, while not quite so poor a measurement, is wrong in a similar way.

 

To Forgive Is Divine (Hebrews 5:3-4)

This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. (Hebrews 5:3-4)

I saw a bumper sticker in a convenience store a few days back. I read the words and then studied the image. They didn’t seem to make any sense. Then I realized just what I was seeing and blushed. I won’t describe the sticker, thereby giving it any value, but it was crass and tacky.

The acceptable level of crass and tackiness in our society has risen dramatically over the span of my life. It wasn’t in the Middle Ages that Jack Paar faced a firestorm of outrage when he told a joke that pivoted on the definition of W.C.: water closet or wayside chapel. Compare that with any random five minutes from How I Met Your Mother or Two and a Half Men. Yes, standards have changed.

Essentially, people have decided that things that used to be “wrong” are now “okay.” At the same time, many things that used to be “okay”–telling racist jokes, for example–are now decidedly “wrong.” I quotate these words because I believe that what’s wrong has always been wrong and will always be wrong. Just because society decides that abortion is a “woman’s right to choose,” does not make it acceptable. Similarly, just because a nation decided for several hundred years that enslaving Africans was acceptable did not move slavery out of the sin column.

Only God can decide what is sin and what is not. Only God can provide the means to settle our sin problems. Only God can call the “High Priest” who will make that settlement. No government office or journalistic position can change these things. No amount of television propaganda or talk therapy can eliminate sin. That’s why the existence of Christ as our high priest is such a miracle.

Brakes on Sin (Hebrews 5:1)

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Hebrews 5:1)

There’s a dent in the side of my truck. Actually, it’s more of a bashed in right side. I did this damage myself on purpose as I side-swiped the basketball goal in the driveway. My other choice would have been to run into the house. With the brakes failing, I had limited options.

Like a fool, I’d loaned my truck to Josh. He called me to say that a brake line had broken, but–not to worry–he’d fixed it. Great. Here’s a piece of advice that I’ve learned from this experience. When you’re largely clueless as a mechanic, you don’t want to engage someone who is just slightly less clueless than you are to do the repair. Josh, as it turned out, not only installed that brake line backwards but didn’t bleed the brakes.

Every mechanic, even those brothers from Boston on NPR, have limits to their ability. No one can know everything there is about cars. I’d certainly prefer to have Jack from my favorite garage look at my car than Josh, but in the end, we all exist somewhere on the spectrum of cluelessness. That’s the nature of things when you select your mechanic, your doctor, your broker, or anything else from mere humans.

What if Jesus could fix your Ford? He’d get it right, don’t you think? Certainly, he showed himself worthy as a better physician than anybody in his day (or ours). Similarly, when Jesus takes your sins to the father, he does not do so in the limited nature of a human high priest. Jesus can make atonement like no one else. This is another of those things that we, living in a Christian environment, can easily forget.

 

Out of Sight? (Hebrew 4:13)

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrew 4:13)

My guilt is plain to me, but I’d like to keep it from you. I have chosen between paper and plastic at the checkout line, but, for fear of you knowing my iniquity, I will not confess my choice to you. Perhaps I have forgotten my wife’s birthday, but I’ll never tell you. Once, I might have talked during the national anthem at a ballgame. Maybe, but that might have been somebody else.

Yes, I’m selecting rather trivial offenses, because I really don’t want to talk about the things that I keep hidden, the things that I do, hoping that nobody will see them. I’ve done things in the past, carefully planning my actions so that nobody will see me. I’m not saying what it was I did, of course, since that would defeat the purpose.

But the ridiculous thing here is that I did all of that planning and execution of stealth as a believer in Jesus Christ. In the back of my mind, as the front of my mind was carefully hiding my shame from other people, I knew that the one before whom I needed most to feel shame would not be fooled.

The question I have, when I reflect on these sorts of actions is this. Do I really believe that God sees all? If I do believe, then do I just not care? Or maybe I’m deluding myself about my belief? There are things that I might carefully conceal from my wife, my employer, the IRS, and so forth, knowing that there would be repercussions if my actions were known. But I behave, sometimes, as if the one who sees all, cares about all, and can manifest repercussions of far more magnitude than the others doesn’t really see at all. How can I behave that way?