Both Psalm 80 and the passage from Isaiah 5 are not warmhearted Scriptures. They both address the reality that the Israelites have not been faithful to God.
Other places in the Scriptures note that the Israelites were faithful in their actions, or at least they attempted to complete the requirements of the Law. Those same places, however, observed that while the actions were “per the book”, their hearts were far away from the heart of the Law (true purpose). It could be said that they were further from the heart of the Law than they were from their relationship to God, and that’s saying something.
As I am looking to sending my last 2 kids to college this fall, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own college freshman year. One of the first things I thought of was the food (like any teenage male). Yes, it was cafeteria food, but like most male teenagers it was quantity, not quality. One of my favorite foods was corn dogs, which I still like. The quantity I would eat at one sitting hurts my stomach at this point. One or two corn dogs a month wouldn’t be horrible, but it wasn’t one or two, and it wasn’t once a month.
Corn dogs are, bluntly, junk food. They’re tasty (to me, at least). Hot dogs can be okay for you (really, they’re just a sausage). Cornbread isn’t too bad (depending). The combination, especially deep-fried, is not healthy. On the other hand, if one were to only eat a particular food, no matter how healthy it might be on its own, our bodies would break down, as no food has all the nutrients that our bodies need.
While misunderstanding God’s intent is one thing, but doing wrong is something different. Paul’s message to Galatians talks about the spiritual “junk food” that they were consuming. What we have been taught to think of as sins (understandably) were the ways of the surrounding culture.
They were part of the surrounding culture and thus were a norm. As these practices were part of the culture, learning to understand that they were not part of a God-honoring life would require self-sacrifice and discipline. If they were to continue their cultural practices, their spiritual bodies would become fatally obese.
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
For the Galatians, dieting from their cultural norms and expectations would have been found very difficult, and probably a little hard to explain to their friends and family. For American Christians, so much of our culture has what we think are Christian trappings, but is actually the junk food of the American culture. Figuring out what is healthy and what is not in our culture for the Christian life is the obligation of the Christian community.
Without question, though, there is a need for significant spiritual dietary changes.
- What is one thing you know is an American Christian “thing”, but isn’t present among Christians in other countries?
- How are you evaluating the culture around you and its influence on your walk with Christ?
- Are you rightly evaluating the cultural pieces you agree with and disagree with?
Lord, we need the Holy Spirit to change our spiritual diet. Help us, in community, to work out what is and isn’t of you. Amen.