Day 36

The Law of Love

from the Romans reading plan


Romans 14:13-23, 1 Corinthians 8:8-13, Ephesians 4:25-32, Ephesians 5:1-2

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Romans 14:13-23, 1 Corinthians 8:8-13, Ephesians 4:25-32, Ephesians 5:1-2

I’ve always heard this passage in Romans 14 interpreted according to clothing, music, alcohol, smoking, and more—all in terms of “not being a stumbling block for others.” I was tender to my power to be a stumbling block of every sort, both to the believing and the unbelieving, checking over my shoulder to see the carnage I’d left in my wake. Truth was, I left hardly any, but it didn’t stop me from metaphorically cutting off arms and legs, gouging out eyes and the like, in pursuit of protecting my brothers and sisters.

The Christian life, I thought, was more about what I couldn’t do than what I could.

How glorious, then, when the true gospel began to take root in my heart. I began to understand that freedom in Christ meant I was truly free to live. As it turns out, Christ had declared me more than clean. He’d declared me redeemed.

For all the ways I’d formerly applied this passage, though, the one I’d not considered was food. I knew all food had been declared clean, that we’re no longer under the law of Moses in our dietary restrictions. But what I didn’t understand was the law of our current world with regard to food: the diet and exercise industry. Everywhere I look, the acceptable Christian message of caring for the temple of the Holy Spirit turns into what I imagine Paul might’ve called the “god of the belly” (Philippians 3:19).

In Philippians 3, Paul warns of the dangers of gluttony. But today, in modern culture, the opposing god—though a no less despicable one—is the one who demands less food, more restrictions, better supplements, flatter stomachs, tighter abs, and the list goes on. In an attempt to care for the temples of the Holy Spirit with eating and exercising, we can destroy our bodies (which are wasting away, whether we like it or not) and cause harm to the impressionable hearts and minds of others who jump on every new regime or diet we offer.

We want to be well, to eat healthy, whole, good food. We love the rhythms of feasting and fasting we see in Scripture. We want to move our bodies, staying limber and active. But we don’t want to destroy our hearts by lusting after what we don’t have: slimmer physiques and sculpted thighs. We don’t want to destroy our bodies by rebounding from one quick-fix supplement to another. We don’t want to destroy our minds by believing our approval comes from certain lifestyles or appearances.

There are countless difficulties in life, opportunities to be divided over race, gender, theology, and history. And food, instead of becoming a means to crush those divides—to draw near to one another, armed with soups, fruits, breads, vegetables, and meats—has become one more line of division.

Christ died for all; this is what the Bible says. I don’t want to be known by what I eat or don’t eat. I want to be known by how I love and Who I’m loved by.

So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. Do not tear down God’s work because of food (Romans 14:19-20).

Whatever struggle you’re caught in the throes of today, know that you are loved by Christ. He spread His own body, bleeding and broken, to fit a cross you could never bear on your own. Don’t destroy your own body by what you do or don’t eat. Christ died for all—every curve, every bulge, and every stretch-mark—all of it.

For “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). God gives us food as a means of provision, not division. Instead of fostering false divisions today, let’s bake a cake, make a soup or a sandwich, and share it with someone in the pursuit of peace.

SRT-ROMANS-instagram36

Lore Ferguson Wilbert is a writer, thinker, and learner. She blogs at Sayable, and tweets and instagrams at @lorewilbert. She has a husband named Nate, a puppy named Harper Nelle, and too many books to read in one lifetime.

Post Comments (99)

99 thoughts on "The Law of Love"

  1. Kylee says:

    SRT, i know you mean well with this one – but can we talk about all the OTHER things besides food that Paul could be addressing here?? For example, in many states marijuana is legal, and since it grows on its own and can be consumed unaltered, some may say God designed it for our consumption! But this can be a huge roadblock for new and seasoned Christians alike. Even if it’s not something I struggle with, my casual acceptance and talk of such can hinder others from drawing near to God. Lord help us not be a stumbling block to our brothers and sisters with ANY of our actions, not only with the foods we eat or don’t eat! And let everything we say and do be a beacon to point other people to you. Use our intentions, God, when our behavior doesn’t line up!! And help us honor YOU in everything we do.

    1. BennyB says:

      Good point!

  2. Molly says:

    I agree that we should not partake in unhealthy diets, and that we should not judge others by what they eat, but gosh, food is a tricky thing…what’s healthy for some is not healthy for others. We’re all different.

    I’m going to be a little transparent here and say that it can be a little frustrating that the church often times feels like a stumbling block in terms of food with their over promotion of sugar.

    I am a licensed health coach and I’ve done a lot of research on the effects of sugar, how addictive it is, and how it is a direct CAUSE of disease…those of us who know that are trying to avoid it…and then we go to church to find cookies and donuts thrown at our children and touted as celebratory foods.

    We were raised to believe that sugar = celebration. Why…you can’t have a birthday without cake right? But what if we changed that story…and made celebrations about being together and eating foods that aren’t classified as addictive.

    Sugar IS addictive and it affects the brain the same way cocaine does. Studies have proven this over and over. I wish churches weren’t tempting their adults and spoon feeding this poison to our kids.

    I know lots of people will think I’m over-reacting, but sugar really is the new “cigarettes”. 30 years from now, people will say, “I should really quit, but I just didn’t know it was bad then..”

    I’m not saying this to spread negativity, because that is SO not me, but if this post causes at least one person to think more about this, I’d really love that. I hope these ideas are accepted with open minds and hearts. I love that this place where women can share authentically is here. Love you ladies!! ❤️

    1. Kylee says:

      Molly I needed to read this! Today is my first day sugar free for ALL of the reasons you mentioned. I was feeling a bit let down by the resolve at the end of this devotional to “bake a cake,” because baking brownies/cookies/cakes is exactly how I got into this mess! I believe sugar is completely addictive and have seen the effects of that addiction run rampant in my family – and am trusting God to rid me of this habit so I can be a help to others struggling with this addiction to sugar. Thanks for sharing this!

      1. Kristi says:

        Yes. I’m on day 20 of the whole30, because eating and sugar had taken over my life and my thoughts. My body was feeling wrecked, and I was tired, irritable, and constantly prone to huge mood swings. I literally cannot believe the positive changes I’ve seen in 3 weeks. I don’t want to yell at my kids, and I feel certain that my bondage to sugar and food was partly fueling that. Of course at the heart of it all is sin, but the fact that I was functionally treating my body so poorly was definitely not helping.

    2. Shannon says:

      I don’t know if you’ll see this as I’m SO late with this devotion. But this is EXACTLY what was going through my mind while reading this. Although I do agree we shouldn’t get tooo obsessed with food, I also find the same in church or Christians. That they DONT CARE about what they consume, when we absolutely SHOULD! If we are indeed Gods temple, we ought to be taking care of it. Of course there’s grace for all in all, but I’ve seen the opposite from what the author is trying to get at.

    3. BennyB says:

      Absolutely! While the health laws in the Bible are mostly thrown out in the name of freedom, there is much scientific evidence that those foods called unclean are still bad for our health. The point of a healthy life is to have a clear mind to better understand the wisdom of God and better serve Him in drawing others to Him.

  3. Jordan M Taylor says:

    Lore,
    gosh dangit. Your devotions always make me cry. This one in particular as this has been a recent theme of my life.

    I am grossly overweight. (Obese is the technical term). A combination of food addiction, emotional eating, and genetics put me in a precarious position at the ripe ol’ age of 25. I’m working on it, through therapy and a doctor who is supportive and helpful (instead of wagging her finger at me). It’s something I have finally realized I have to deal with before it deals with me.
    I’ve battled this weight thing my whole life. And my family has done nothing but perpetuate it, guilting and shaming me for my weight (and making me fear trying to lose it if i didn’t do it the “right” way). Growing up, it was my grandmother– she put me on diet after diet, complained about my weight, called me fat… you name it, she did it. I was constantly compared to skinnier cousins/family members, and told “if only you’d lose weight, then you could ____.” And yet she didn’t realize this was causing me to eat MORE because I have a tendency to eat my feelings.
    As I’ve gotten older, my grandmother’s voice in my head has died down, but my mother has taken over.
    I recently transitioned out of an internship and am in-between jobs, so I moved back in with my mom. She’s one of my biggest triggers when it comes to anything weight-related. I eat a meal, she comments. I don’t eat a meal, she comments. Then she brings home fast food or something of the sort. Because my life isn’t full of irony as is. ;)
    We’ve had an argument about food almost every.single.day. since I moved home 3 weeks ago. She thinks the solution is for me to just not eat at all basically (which my doctor obviously does NOT advocate, along with most sane people!).

    Food and weight have always been an idol in my life, but I really don’t think it hit me how much so until I read these verses and this devotional. There’s so much guilt and shame everytime I look in the mirror or hear my weight at the doctor’s office, or everytime I eat something unhealthy. It’s so hard to lose weight with those voices following you around. I want to be healthy, of course, but I also want to be free from feeling like I have to be a certain weight or eat a certain way (for my mother’s sake). I want to be free from the guilt and shame attached to my weight, and free from the voices that ring in my ear from being “plus-sized.”
    Reading this devotional today was a sweet relief. As I was reading, I felt the spirit prompt me: “this doesn’t need to have a foothold in your life.” my mom, my grandmother, the shame and guilt… they’ve been such a foothold in this journey of mine, that’s it become near impossible to even try losing weight. I don’t need that to keep me from being the healthiest daughter of God I can be. He’s called me to a full life on earth, and I know I need to get my health in check to do that– but I can do it without the foothold of my mother’s complaining or the shame I’ve felt for so long about the scale.

    Sorry for my rambling wordiness… but I needed to get this out. This devotional opened my eyes and it may have opened a can of worms, but I’m so grateful. <3

    1. Carlee says:

      Jordan, thank you for your honesty. What a battle! I am praying for you today; praying that you would see yourself as the daughter of the most-high God. He loves and adores you. There sounds like there are many layers to healing for you. I pray the Spirit would give you discernment on where to start. I agree that you are called to fullness in Him. I pray for a renewing of your mind, that weight loss will be the by-product of a deep work of healing in your heart. Start by seeing your self rightly before your Creator…He thinks you are beautiful. I will continue to pray for you!

    2. Sarahlet says:

      Thank you for sharing Jordan! Praying that you would be encouraged in your journey!

    3. Joyce says:

      I’m in such a similar boat as you, Jordan. You are so kind and beautiful and brave.

      I pray everyday that the Lord would guide my heart. I pray that I want him more than I want (fill in the blank; e.g., my own house, physical beauty, to be right…). I pray for both of us that the Lord would be more than enough for all our needs and that He would fill every empty or desperate place in our hearts.

      Ann Voskamp’s most recent blog post has been encouraging for me today: http://annvoskamp.com/2017/07/how-these-3-words-can-stop-whats-stealing-your-joy-instead-of-staying-stuck-in-the-competing-and-comparing-rat-race/

    4. Jenna says:

      Thank you for your vulnerability. Praying for your home environment. You are on the right track, these truths you are uncovering, your triggers, how you are leaning into them, you are on the right path. Keep listening, keep taking every step forward, keep fighting to hear God’s voice louder and clearer than all the others. Freedom will be found!

  4. Evie says:

    Amen! Thank you for this strong encouragement!

  5. Carlee says:

    My heart is bursting! This message is the stuff that gets me up in the morning; the stuff that keeps me pushing on in an industry that tears down. I am in the fitness industry, and God has been leading me to redeem pieces of it for His glory. Specifically, the idea that we are all unique, fearfully and wonderfully made. If we all go about trying to be the same thing; we lie to ourselves, and become complacent in our pursuit for Kingdom come. Today’s message is about celebrating the ways in which YOU find holy-health. Sisters, be encouraged that you are unique, and that your path to wholeness is unique to YOU. This is my passion: to help my family in Christ discover the ways in which their bodies can move for the glory of our King. What works for you might not work for the masses. I sincerely believe, that when you invite the Holy Spirit into this area of your life, He will make a path where there doesn’t seem to be one. Prov 31:17 “She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.” Sisters, being strong physically will help you set about your God-given task. Be encouraged! If you are feeling road-blocked, message me, I will offer my best to your process.

  6. Christina says:

    This is convicting this morning. I really need to evaluate whether my pursuit is healthy or idolatrous. This comes in the midst of a round of Whole30, and the Whole30 came around because I was feeling rotten, bloated, yucky, etc., etc. I don’t want to be known by what I’m not eating right now, although the people I’m around the most know what my husband and I are doing. Thank you for reminding me to be moderate and to promote fellowship, not stand against it in my pursuit of health.

    1. Hailey T. says:

      Good luck on Whole 30, Christina. I’ve done it a couple of times and have found Joy in praising God for how colorful the food I eat is on Whole 30….it’s pretty hard not to have a beautiful plate when you’re doing it! Praying for your discernment of truth during this time of discipline.

  7. Erin says:

    Thank you SRT for doing this study! I have read Romans so many times but never quite understood it. The Holy Spirit is really speaking through it to me this summer and I’m so incredibly thankful!! Thank you!!

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