Thin Bodies, Iron Yokes

This is a re-post, with a few edits, from last summer. 

When Christ and His gospel are preached in all their fullness men and women are set free, not from rules and obedience, but from man’s rules and from obedience as the road to salvation. The gospel says that satisfaction has been made for all our sins. There is nothing we can do, say, think, implement, or learn that will take away our sins. Our sins are completely taken away in Christ. We now have an easy yoke and light burden. Our King is not a tyrant.  His laws are not burdensome.

But bondage is always out there stalking us like a pack of wolves. There are always men and women rattling chains, but claiming they are keys, slave traders promising freedom. They say, “Our yoke is better than Christ’s.” But the yokes of men are always iron.

One  yoke put is the pressure on women to be thin and eat healthy. While few churches have it in their bylaws and no one would say it out loud, our women have learned that if you are going to be holy then you must be thin. If you really care about  your family then you will eat healthy. If you really love your husband then you will make sure you are thin so he wants to have sex. If you really love your children you will lose your pregnancy weight. If you want to be effective for Christ you will be thin so your witness is not hurt by being “overweight.” The fruit of the Spirit is no longer peace, joy, and patience but thinness, healthiness, and attractiveness.

This unspoken criteria vary among church communities. In modern, contemporary church communities it will look one way. In conservative, homeschooling communities it will look another way. In old, established churches it might look another way. But due to the avalanche of advertising and the Internet no community is immune. Christians have bought what the world is selling. Therefore our women are in bondage. What to do?

First, husbands, fathers, and mothers need to ask Christ to forgive them for putting our daughters and wives in chains. They are insecure. They are ashamed of their bodies, their hair, their nakedness before their husbands, their stomachs, their pregnancies, and their love of certain foods. We have taught them that being thin  is more important than peace, joy, patience, and Christ likeness.  When our daughters put on weight we chide them. When our wives put on weight or lose that “girlish” figure we stop initiating sex or make snide comments  Is it any wonder that Christian women are often obsessed by their weight, by food, by exercise, by various alternative medicines, by healthy eating, by clothes, etc.? Or that they are vulnerable to eating disorders, sexual problems, promiscuity, fornication, predatory men, and Fifty Shades of Grey? Brothers and sister, mother and fathers, we have sinned against them. We must repent.

Second, ladies you are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).  Has the world put you in chains? Have you added to Christ? Do you believe that you will be “accepted in the Beloved” when you are thin, sexy, and healthy (Ephesians 1:6)? Sisters, repent. You cannot earn His favor through any amount of exercise or healthy eating or weight loss.   And besides, in the end, your body will die. It will get old and rot. Your skin will wrinkle and sag. Your eyes will dim. Does that scare you? Do you want to stay thin and young forever? If so, then the world has a hold of your heart. Repent. Do you sit under the yoke of never being quite good enough for your husband? Your father? Your mother? Is there is a lack of freedom in the marriage bed? Are you thin, but still worried about your weight? Are you heavy, but hate your body and wish it was different? Come to Jesus and repent of believing the lies of the world that Christ is not sufficient. Repentance is hard. But repentance brings freedom. Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). Take it and drop the one your father, mother, husband, or the world gave you.

Finally, pastors, we must preach the glorious, gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel does not bind like the laws of men. It sets them free. There is deep joy when our people know down in their bones that all of their sins are forgiven in Christ. This takes a lot of preaching and counseling to get people to understand this. Our men should be taught that having holy wives and daughters is far different and far more important than having thin ones.  We must gently rebuke where necessary when a man or woman has bought into the world’s view of health and body.  We must remind our flock that their bodies are slowly dying, but their souls are being renewed (II Cor. 4:16), that bodily exercise is of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things (I Timothy 4:8) and that all food has been declared clean (Mark 7:19). The world tells our women that if they are to be accepted they must look a certain way. The Bible tells a different story. Full acceptance is found in Christ. There are green pastures and clear waters for the sheep of God. We must lead them there by the Word.