By James Engelbrecht
Individuals with same-sex attraction make up as much as 6 percent of the male population and 4.5 percent of females (though some studies estimate half that). Those are not insignificant numbers, especially when same-sex attraction involves you or someone you love.
Thus began Mark Moore’s February 12, 2012, column, “How Should the Church Relate to Those with Same-Sex Attraction?” Here’s the rub. As a follower of Christ, I hear Christians say:
“Keep your nose out of my private life.”
“It’s my body.”
“Christians aren’t called to be judgmental.”
“It’s not a sin. I’m this way due to a complex interaction of biology, my family, and societal factors.”
“I’m not sure how God feels about this. God made me and loves me the way I am.”
I have family and friends dealing with same-sex attraction, but I’ve never heard them say these things. Instead, these comments came from overweight Christians.
Of those struggling with same-sex attraction, Moore wrote, “The church traditionally has not been particularly welcoming of such individuals.” Well, it’s safe to say the church has been very welcoming to those struggling with food-control issues. Some congregations cater to this demographic, providing donuts each week. Other churches welcome new members with, “we like to eat around here.”
You know the old saying, “First you eat to live, and then you live to eat”? Well, it may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing it with food or indulging it with promiscuous sex. Since God honors you with a body, honor him with your body! That’s not my answer, it’s Paul’s from 1 Corinthians 6.
For the woman with same-sex inclinations to be the woman God, her creator, envisions, she’s got work to do. Her nature—for a host of reasons—pulls her one way while her commitment to Christ leads another. A different woman—different family, different DNA, different life experiences—has zero pull toward the same gender. Overeating is her struggle.
What’s a Church to Do?
If we accept that the church, in the past, has been standoffish, at best, toward those working through same-sex attraction issues while simultaneously enabling those with food-control issues, where do we go from here?
Here’s what I suggest: welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (OK, I totally stole this answer from the Bible.) In Romans 14, Paul offers advice on how believers with different backgrounds, at different mile markers, should get along.
Simple, Not Easy
For my brothers and sisters battling food-control issues, my admonition is: follow the original game plan. “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food” (Genesis 1:29).
At the start of Food Rules1, author Michael Pollan observes that modern eating is needlessly complicated. (Can I get an “Amen”?) Pollan notes two indisputable facts:
• People who eat “lots of processed foods and meats, lots of added fat and sugar . . . invariably suffer from high rates of: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.”
• People who eat a “remarkably wide range of traditional diets” don’t suffer from these diseases.
For good measure, Pollan adds one more fact. People who stop eating a lot of processed foods, fats, and sugar see “dramatic improvements in their health.”
Return to Eden
Janette builds houses for poor families in Mexico. She’s a missionary, loves Jesus, and for her, overeating has been a lifelong struggle. As a way to lose weight, she challenged herself to complete a triathlon. She stood in front of a full-length mirror at 4:30 the morning of the race. Her spandex shorts weren’t flattering. To survive the run, she chanted with each footfall: “I. Can. Do. All. Things. Through. Christ. Who. Gives. Me. Strength.”
Janette says, “The former ‘fat Janette’ lived a lifestyle worthy of an early grave. But today, crossing that finish line, I knew the only thing that’s going to the grave is the battery of poor habits and emotional coping that once held me hostage to a life of misery and trapped in my own body.”
Another woman, Sarah, always smiles. It’s part of the façade she adopted to hide her mom’s alcoholism. Her “triathlon” occurred over a period of six years and included enough shame and sexual identity confusion to last a lifetime. On January 23, she finally finished. After hours of fasting, crying, praying, and more crying, she gave her guilt (and her “I’m too far gone to be saved” arrogance) to someone better equipped to handle it.
Sarah, now with a genuine smile, says, “My past is a mess. My grandmother wasn’t a Christian; neither was my mom. All that ends now, with me. One day when I have children, I may not be ‘mom of the year,’ but I can give my kids what I never had—Christ.”
Bad News/Good News
Individuals with obesity issues make up as much as 32 percent of the male population and 35 percent of females (though studies suggest percentages are higher for conservative Christians). Those numbers are not insignificant, especially when obesity involves you or someone you love.
That’s bad news, but Romans 14:17 is good news: “God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy” (The Message).
1Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (New York: Penguin Books, 2009).
Jay Engelbrecht teaches Lifetime Wellness at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri.