Healthy eating, fellowship and feasting

The year started with a sugar-free week, and now that week’s over the intent is still to keep up with a low-sugar, healthy eating plan. It can be hard though, especially with so many friends and family to visit. Also, the recent hot weather makes preparing food in the kitchen much less appealing than getting take-away. So I’ve been thinking quite a bit about healthy eating and about the Biblical approach to food.

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1 Corinthians 6 tells us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Now, in this context it’s specifically talking about sexual purity, about not using the body in which the Spirit dwells for sexual immorality. But I think there are some general principles here that we can relate to healthy eating. We’ve been given these bodies by God, and I believe we have a responsibility to care for them – firstly as the masterpiece of God’s creation and secondly as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. I want to have the energy to do all the things God has for me, for as long as I can. Eating healthy and keeping up with exercise help me to do that. I’ve gone through times of life where I’m eating takeaway more than once a week and, let me tell you, I don’t feel great. Yes, I can still serve God even if I’ve eaten out three times that week. I can still serve him if I sit on the lounge instead of exercising. But by eating healthy and exercising, I feel like I’m joining in with the call to care for God’s creation, my own body included.

A healthy lifestyle is important, but sometimes even among Christians it can become an idol. When it becomes the most important thing in my life, or when I’m measuring my worth as a person (and measuring the worth of others) by these standards, then it becomes a problem. When we think that somehow we can somehow stave off death and redeem our bodies through healthy living, then we forget what is ultimate. We can use these things as gifts God has given us – and healthy living really does make a difference – but ultimately every day we have is in the hands of God. There’s a verse in 1 Timothy 4 that says physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things – for both this life and the next. Pursue that healthy lifestyle, but see it in the light of eternity. Pursue a healthy soul in right standing with God and others as well.

There’s another Biblical principle related to food that balances out the extremes of the healthy lifestyle movement. I’ve read somewhere that you shouldn’t ever use food as a reward, you shouldn’t use food as a way to celebrate or connect with others. Reading through the Bible, it’s pretty clear that this is incomplete. Connecting with other people over a meal is very, very Biblical. The Israelites were commanded to share a Passover meal every year. Jesus was criticised for eating with sinners, for connecting with them over food. The early believers met together in their homes and to share fellowship and break bread together. And the celebrations? The Book of Revelation describes heaven as the wedding feast of the Lamb. That’s right, heaven is a wedding reception overflowing with food and wine!

There’s no reason why this feasting can’t be healthy. Sharing fellowship over doesn’t mean we need to binge on pizza or chocolate every time we meet with other believers (although on the odd occasion that can be quite fun!). What it means is food is meant to be more than just healthy. Food is meant to taste good and to bring people together. It’s for nourishing our bodies with those healthy things we need and also for feasting, fellowship and celebration. If it means we have to forgo our strict healthy eating rules to connect or celebrate with a friend over afternoon tea, I think that’s okay sometimes. I try to eat healthy at home so I can be a bit more relaxed when I’m out with friends.

May food never be an idol, either healthy eating or over indulgence, but may this marvellous gift from God be received with thanksgiving, in the light of that eternal wedding feast in heaven. 

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