Confession: I love to stroll through the diet book aisle of our local bookstore. Something about the combination of health facts, neat menu plans, and (supposed) guarantees of a new, perfect, lean and trim body never fail to entice me.
But after just a little while of wandering among the hundreds of diet and health books, I begin to wonder: who is really right? And, more importantly, as a Christian, is there only one right diet for me?
Well, is there?
It depends, ultimately, on what we mean by “diet.”
If we mean that the way to please God is to consume only fruits, vegetables and gluten-free bread, then we’re probably being too narrow and too rigid.
But, if we run in the opposite direction and embrace a no holds-barred, hedonistic rampage through the cookie and candy aisle, we’re also not on the right track.
Contrary to many so-called Christian “diet” books, I contend that there is no one right diet, but that there is one right way to eat: the way of faith. God doesn’t call us to practice a perfect diet, rather He calls us to live by faith in all of life, even in what we eat.
Lest we think that food struggles and diet wars are purely a product of twenty-first century western culture, the Biblical book of Romans reminds us that controversy over food is nothing new. In Romans 14:21-23 we read:
“ It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
In this letter, the writer of Romans could have rendered a judgment on who was right in the diet wars. Do eat this; don’t eat that, he could have said. But he didn’t.
Instead, he drew his audience’s attention back to something else: their doubts and, most importantly, their faith. He made the radical claim that eating from anything other than faith is sin.
Well, then, if faith is so important, what exactly is it?
Hebrews 11:1 tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So then, faith is trust (or reliance) upon something we can’t see. For the Christian, this faith is in God as He is shown to us in the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ.
So, when I eat to quell my anxious thoughts, I fail to eat by faith in God. When I eat to satisfy my lustful gaze at the triple-chocolate cookie, I fail to eat by faith in God. When I starve myself, I fail to eat by faith in God.
These are hard truths. They are truths I have far from mastered. But they are true truths, given for our good from an all-good God who came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
That all-good God is there to show us the way to wholeness in our lives, and, yes, even the way to wholeness in our eating. He is there to give us power to walk in faith as we seek this wholeness. And He is there, through Christ, to forgive us when we stumble, failing to walk—and eat—by faith.