Lenten Disciplines (1): Eating as a Christian
Some Lenten Disciplines (01): Eating as a Christian
1Timothy 4:1–6 - But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 4:2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 4:3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 4:5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. 4:6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.
Lent (from “lengthening of days” - i.e., spring) is a 40-day period of “spring training” for our community. This training is not “works” and obtains no “merit” (we have none). Rather, should we choose to, we have a common opportunity to discipline ourselves for the purpose godliness. It is “group therapy” for our habits and patterns of life that need renovation. We are taking this wilderness journey that we may together anticipate the feasts of Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. For the Lenten discipline series this year I will look at very concrete and practical matters: “Eating,” “Fasting,” “Feasting,” etc as a Christian.
The world today is crazed with eating. We have “food Nazis,” health food nuts, diet-tribes. Every item of food advertises nutritional facts with slogans aimed to sell to our introspective food conscience - “low fat,” “low sodium,” “fat free,” “organic” . . . Today, Americans are confronted with food diversity and abundance in a way that has never been available to any other culture. In Lancaster, choose a banana from Costa Rica for breakfast, along with cereal grain grown in Europe. At lunch eat a sandwich with a Mexican tomato, lettuce from California, pickles from New York and turkey raised in Texas but processed in Wisconsin. At dinner have salad from five different states and an entree from three continents. Yet with all our richness, we now have epidemics of “diabesity” and many food-related problems like food allergies, IBS, type II diabetes, outbreaks of diseases directly from foods (salmonella, mad cow, e coli).
The Bible begins with food (fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge) and ends with food, the Tree of Life (Rev. 22:14). In the center of biblical worship (OT or NT) is a ritual meal and our relationship with God is often described in “feeding” terms (Shepherd and Sheep). Jesus describes Himself as “bread” and giving “living water.” Temporal judgments and blessings are often cast in terms of starvation or abundance. Specific practices about eating are enjoined to us in the Word, such as feasting, fasting, feeding, and sharing. How then should we eat? Paul explains that demonically inspired false teaching will advocate “abstaining from foods” (1 Tim. 4:3). What principles may we derive from Paul’s teaching here?
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more