Yes, I’m one of those people. I eat a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and (mostly) nut-free diet.
I’m not following some fad diet to be hip(ster) and cool. I follow this diet because if I didn’t, I would get sick quite often. My body can’t process certain foods well, but I won’t go into the details. A few years ago, because of some health concerns, I had to cut out a number of foods from my diet. Since then, I’ve been learning a lot about temptation, self-control, perseverance, accountability, and sin. Such a thing is bound to happen when you’re surrounded all day by delicious things you shouldn’t eat.
There are a few things I’ve done to commit to this restrictive diet that remind me of the Christian experience of fleeing from sin.
But, before I begin, here’s a quick reminder of what “sin” is: anything that does not conform to the holy character of God, whether in thought, attitude, or action. Sin puts us in a guilty, unrighteous state before God (but we don’t have to remain there; more on that later!). In the Bible, sin is also referred to as disobedience, rebellion, transgression, wickedness, and ungodliness. Sin isn’t only what we do, but it’s who we are in our nature. We can never be perfect, and we miss the mark of God’s perfect standard in every aspect of our lives.
With that in mind, let’s get to those lessons!
These foods were causing a problem, so I completely eliminated them from my diet. I threw out my pasta, peanut butter, and yogurt (among other things), and promised myself I wouldn’t buy them again. I made a commitment that I was no longer going to eat these foods. Once I identified the underlying issue behind my symptoms of a sensitive digestive system and skin problems, I made a conscious decision to eliminate the cause.
It’s the same with sin. Once you determine what is causing you to stumble, it becomes easier to identify and cut it off. In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus references the sins of lust and adultery, addressing how we can commit sins in our hearts, not just through our actions. He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (ESV). Although we aren’t required to literally cut off our body parts that cause us to sin, there ought to be a real emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical severing of what leads us to temptation in those areas. God wants us to honor him with purity of actions and thought, so we are to “cut off” whatever leads us to sin. It could be devices we use to view pornography, or a friend group that constantly gossips, or even apps that encourage us to spend too much time on social media, leading to jealousy and covetousness.
When I go to a restaurant or over to a friend’s house for dinner, it’s clear that I’m careful with what I eat. In many of my daily interactions with people, my diet and food sensitivities come up in conversation, and I openly share my situation and struggles with others. I do this for a couple reasons: to get some accountability (if people know what foods I’m avoiding, I’m less likely to slip up in front of them), and to get some help from others (they may have similar allergies or dietary restrictions, so they can make helpful suggestions, as well as empathize with me).
It’s the same with sin. Sharing your patterns of sinful behaviour with a trusted person, and asking them to keep you accountable, means greater support and empathy in your fight against sin. Being vulnerable and open with someone, offering personal details, and admitting your failings, might feel uncomfortable and intimidating, but often when you share about what you’re struggling with, you learn that you’re not alone. When we confess our sins to one another, we can pray for one another and experience healing (James 5:16).
If I made all these changes to my diet and continued getting sick just as often as before, it would be quite discouraging and frustrating. But instead, once I stopped eating the foods that my body doesn’t process well, I started feeling significantly better. During the times when I am tempted to consume something that I really shouldn’t be eating, I remember the “why” behind eating well: to have a healthier tummy, clearer thinking, and more energy.
It’s the same with sin. Why do we flee from sin and resist temptation? Well, for starters we are commanded to do so. As we obey this command, we become more Christ-like. As we pursue holiness, for his glory and for our good, we enjoy deeper intimacy with God and begin to fully experience the extent of his love for us. It’s because of God’s love that he sent the sinless saviour, Jesus, to take on our sins and to present us as righteous before our holy God. It’s because of God’s grace that we respond out of love and obedience to him. We are called to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1) and conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). Becoming more Christ-like allows us to experience freedom from the destructive sin that used to be so alluring. Just like our cravings for certain processed foods eventually wane, our addiction to destructive sinful behaviour also eventually begins to disappear as we walk closely with Jesus. As we keep the “why” in mind, it helps us persevere.
Sticking to a diet is hard, especially when so many restaurants and cafes have tasty foods that I used to love indulging in! It’s tough to say no to something I said yes to for so many years. Whenever I eat something I shouldn’t, like a piece of cake at a birthday party, I don’t tell myself, “I give up. I’m never going to be able to say no to cake again. I’m done with eating gluten-free.” No, I recognize my mistake, feel the consequences for it afterward, and then take steps to get back on track.
It’s the same with sin. When I slip up on my diet and eat what I’m not supposed to, I feel sick to my stomach — literally! When I mess up and sin before a holy God, the guilt and shame I experience is a whole other level of feeling gross. As broken and sinful human beings, we are prone to wander and sin. None of us are perfect. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But every time we mess up, we can confess our sins to God, accept his forgiveness made possible through Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and get back on track with pursuing holiness.
I’m so glad that God offers me grace through this process of being sanctified. Whether I’m sticking to my diet or resisting temptation to sin, I’m learning that it is a process of growth and perseverance. The longer you say no to something and have it out of your life, the easier it is to continue saying no. Temptation is going to come your way and you need to be ready. So, cut off what you need to, share your struggles with someone you trust, remember the benefits of fleeing from sin, and get back on track when you mess up.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Thessalonians 5:23