What Would Jesus Eat?

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you have of God? And you are not your own, for you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

We are temples of God’s Holy Spirit. As with many biblical principles there are multiple levels to this. Spiritually, we need to make ourselves a suitable dwelling place for God, by living righteously and giving no place to sin. But on the physical aspect, many Christians fail to truly treat their bodies with the honor, respect, and care due to a temple of God.

Simply reading this scripture – that we are a temple of God’s Holy Spirit – has sadly become an empty or displaced notion in our church culture. We, as a church, need to redefine what it means to honor and respect our bodies as to the Lord. Because our culture laughs at the concept that the choices we make in our lifestyles, what we eat, and what we expose ourselves to will impact us greatly on a physical and spiritual level, we have the right and obligation to reverse this trend inside the body of believers – especially because of its spiritual significance.

Perhaps it is hard to grasp the gravity of this scripture since we don’t see a temple in Jerusalem that God dwells in as they would have in biblical times. But from what we know of the temple, we can surmise that it was impressive, sacred, and carefully crafted, maintained, and utilized. It was set apart and holy, and was not to be tainted by the trappings and antics of the world. This was why Jesus angrily chased out the moneychangers out of the temple – it was God’s dwelling place and not to be blasphemed!

Without getting into specific laws or pondering which ones apply in today’s culture, one can discern simply from the number of practical physical laws given in scripture that God cared about Israel’s health and well-being. This is no different today with ‘spiritual Israel’ – the ones God calls into His truth and church. In general we should keep ourselves healthy and avoid items, activities, or environments that we know are injurious to our health and well-being. Why then is it so hard to simply avoid the things that are “bad for us?”

All too often we joke about poor health. In Western society, many boast about how drunk they became on a given weekend. Some compete as to the length they can binge on junk food. Perhaps something more common to Christians would be simply overeating. After a meal, some proudly purport, “I just stuffed myself so full, I could barely fit out the door,” or illicit chuckles of empathy from others as they admit, “I loved that cake so much, I just HAD to have 5 more slices!” What’s the harm in that?

A cognitive dissonance occurs when we trick our brain into not believing the validity of a threat despite the proof of the danger at hand. American culture has done this through the media with a collapsing economy, the threat of fundamentalist Muslims, and health matters. It is no wonder that Wendell Berry penned that “There is no connection between food and health. We are fed by a food industry which pays no attention to health, and healed by a health industry that pays no attention to food.” Living in American, true Christians cannot fully escape the influence of a blissfully ignorant culture bent on indulgence and pleasure in the moment without concern for the consequences.

As with most unsettling trends, what happens in the world happens in the church. An almost careless and ‘in-the-moment’ approach to lifestyle and eating habits has crept into God’s ecclesia. Instead of calling it out for what it is – breaking God’s physical laws – we stand back in fear of offense, and even go so far as to joke about it, in apparent empathetic support. The Corinthian church was faulted for not doing anything about a sinful relationship. Let us not be faulted for allowing obesity, overeating, junk food diets, and stressful overmedicated lifestyles to occur unnoticed and unchallenged in our midst.

In the mainstream Christian world, fornication became so commonplace, it became accepted. In the Church of God, overeating followed suit. We think of “gluttony” with much distance and distain, yet never consider that many of us come dangerously close to that line, and sometimes cross it habitually!

It is high time that the Church of God cast aside political correctness and tell it like it is, without being afraid to ruffle a few feathers. If the recipients are truly converted people, the truth should cut to the heart, but not cause great offense. Subjects need to be addressed, and grey areas brought to light. We all have a fear and distrust of a system that establishes “sheriffs instead of shepherds” but there is a middle ground where a church can stand firm on issues that may make some uncomfortable. (topics like dating outside of the church, lust and self-gratification, voting, makeup, military service, internet addictions, overeating and obesity).

For example, growing up I never fathomed that a Twinkie might be just as bad for me as eating shrimp. Since the bible didn’t ban Twinkies, why should I question it? The “McDonaldization” of the food industry is now at the global level, making it increasingly difficult to discern what a biblical “diet” would have consisted of.

People often don’t know or care that what they’re eating is poison because “at least it’s not pork.” While I doubt updating the “clean/unclean” list to include junk food items would be the solution, there are basic (and some specific) principles that a church could define in our society to help guide those ignorant of the danger in their eating habits.

Ideally parents would teach about these things, but all too often that is not the case. If not the parents, then who will teach the youth? The church could pull together programs and resources to help parents teach their children. In addition, or until then, the church should stand up and address the issue that so many wish to ignore – we are breaking God’s physical laws and rejoicing in it.

To reverse a trend, we humans need to be “cut to the heart,” and undoubtedly God will give His servant leaders the words to accomplish just that. This issue isn’t just about us, but what our bodies represent – God’s spirit. Our calling is not just about us, but about how we can become teachers to help others.

With a humble attitude, let us all repent and cry for help in both seeing this pervasive trend for what it is and in knowing how to devise a stern and poignant call to action for God’s people in this matter.