"Everything is permissible for me," but not everything is helpful. "Everything is permissible for me," but I will not be brought under the control of anything...
Do you not know that your bodies are the members of Christ?...
Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.
(1 Corinthians 6:12, 15, 19-20)
Do you have a few minutes for me to list for you all of the things that you should not be taking into your body as a Christian? Let's start with pornography. No one that I know would doubt that pornography is incredibly harmful and that it has no benefit at all to the human heart or mind. I know of not one marriage that has benefited from pornography. Oddly enough, I don't hear these words very often from pulpits across America. Instead, we prefer to pick and choose which sexual sins offend us the most - like homosexuality - while we shy away from the more obvious and pervasive issues of adultery and pornography.
From there, let's talk about drinking. It's evil, the devil's juice, and nothing good can come from it. At least that's what many believer's claim. It is more subject to opinion and semantics, yet we can all agree that drunkenness is a sin and alcohol abuse leads to misery, disease, and death. But let's err on the side of the "stumbling brother" and declare all of its use abhorrent to God - unless of course you are baking a rum cake, at which point it is entirely acceptable.
And then let's discuss tobacco use and over-eating. Wait, you don't want to talk about those things? I mean come on, most of us are well aware of the dangers of smoking and tobacco use, aren't we? And surely you know the onslaught of disease that obesity brings - diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure problems, and so on and so forth. Aren't these things just as deadly and sinful when they are abused?
Here's the deal. Christians are quite crafty at taking Scriptures they like and applying them only to areas that personally offend them. When an obese pastor rails from the pulpit against homosexuality to a congregation filled with straight men struggling with pornography who just grabbed that last puff from their cigarettes prior to the service, then we have missed something here.
The oft-repeated phrase that "Christianity is not about rules, but rather about a relationship" bears much truth, but you couldn't tell it these days. Endless blog posts tackling the tough areas of alcohol and pornography are mostly helpful but entirely incomplete when they fail to address other areas of abuse. And I also don't find Jesus stressing endless lists in the Bible.
So let's look at what at least one portion of Scripture tells us. 1 Corinthians 6 (some of which is quoted above) records Paul's words to the church in Corinth. These Christians are struggling with all sorts of issues and they have also bought into much of the popular philosophy of the day. They have reasoned within themselves that "everything is permissible." In other words, as long as we act in moderation then we are okay. Paul corrects their thinking by telling them that "not everything is helpful." This truth is what most Christians latch on to when addressing questionable areas such as drinking. Am I allowed to? Yes. Should I? Not if it controls you or proves to be unhelpful.
Unfortunately this application is often limited to only a few areas of concern and struggle, which is why overweight, smoking, mean-spirited gossips who claim to be Christians can sit in their ivory towers and cast stones at the men and women who drink a glass of wine. What this allows us to do is to hide behind ourselves so that we do not have to address our own issues of struggle. As long as I am engaged in the fight for your purity and holiness, I can overlook the battle for my own.
Look, I've been around long enough to know that we will probably all never agree on whether or not social drinking is okay or whether enjoying tobacco is a total offense to God. And I realize that the masses would probably storm the church gates once they finished their third round at Golden Corral if pastors regularly spoke out against obesity. So is there a solution, a common ground that we can camp out on?
Yes there is.
Do you not know that your bodies are the members of Christ?... Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? God indwells you. Whatever you bring in - be it food or drink or pornography or whatever pleasures - you share these with the Spirit. Think about the next time you choose to indulge.
You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. While you are justly defending the right of the unborn against those who believe that they can do whatever they want with their bodies, let these words sink in to you. Yes, you value and fight to protect life, but do you just as vigorously strive to care for the body that God paid the highest price to give to you? You also cannot do whatever you want to your body because it is not your own.
Therefore, glorify God in your body. That pretty much sums it up. If you can't bring glory to God in some way in and with your body, then don't engage in whatever it is that you are contemplating. This is a huge argument used to dissuade Christians from drinking, but when applied to eating it becomes the elephant in the room. So let's be honest, it's not as ambiguous or grey as we want to believe. Live to bring glory to God and leave the list-making to the religious ones.