I’ve Recovered. Why Can’t You?
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism . . . Colossians 2:16-18
Once, after my college wrestling season finished, I put on a significant amount of weight, eating everything in sight. As my pants grew tighter, I realized I needed a change. I found some diet and headed to the grocery store with my buddies. My planned diet involved strict calorie reduction, but my friends had no interest in that. Rather, they piled the normal college diet – pizza, ramen, and chips – into their cart. I stuck to my eggs, spinach, and grapefruit and suddenly, I found myself looking down on them. I had yet to lose a single pound, but still, I was judgmental of their poor choices. I wouldn’t have said it out loud, but I felt it – I’m better because I’m making healthy decisions.
It was absurd, but, if I’m honest, I’m still prone to this. Having once been addicted to drugs, you’d think that I’d be overflowing with sympathy for those who struggle with anything. There are times though when I’m terribly judgmental, particularly when it comes to those things with which I’ve never wrestled. How can you be so dumb? I’ve recovered. Why can’t you?
In today’s passage, Paul warned against those who follow strict rules, simply to make themselves feel superior to others. This is, unfortunately, a trap to which Christians are quite prone. We don’t drink, smoke, or have adulterous affairs, and so, we feel that we’re pretty amazing – unlike those losers who struggle. In our impeccable behavior, we fool ourselves into believing we’re not like the addict. Asceticism though, is just a different kind of addiction. In following strict rules to make ourselves feel superior, we’re addicted to ourselves, living for our own pride.
Faith is abandoning our way to follow God. That will mean that we must abandon some self-destructive behaviors to follow him. When we don’t indulge in certain behaviors however, only to make ourselves look good, then we’re not doing it for God, we’re doing it for ourselves. The sum of our faith cannot simply be a list of stuff we don’t do. We can live our entire lives avoiding the really bad sins and still be judgmental, selfish, prideful people. We can live what we believe to be perfect lives and still be perfect jerks.
Faith doesn’t mean obeying a bunch of rules to make us feel better than others. Faith means abandoning ourselves – and our pride – to follow God.