Initially I would have said I had a trifecta (I love using that word!) of reasons for following a whole-foods, plant-based diet: health, the environment and animal welfare (and probably in that order). However as I pursue Jesus as my ultimate passion and inspiration for life itself, the Holy Spirit has revealed to me that all three of these reasons spring from the very heart of God Himself. After all, it is He who created the dazzling array of animals and an amazing abundance of edible plants, seeds, nuts and mushrooms, and He also commanded us to honor Him with our bodies because they are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20) When we think about honoring the Lord with our bodies, we usually think about the evils of pornography and sexual sins, drugs and alcohol, things that enter and pollute us through our eyes and ears. We do not think about how we can dishonor our bodies through what enters our mouths disguised as nutrition. God gave us this earth, and the animals and plants in it, to be faithful stewards of all He created and to replenish it. (Genesis 1:26-28) When we take our eyes and focus off of Jesus, we still have a God-sized hole to fill in our lives and inevitably the innate longing created by that God-sized hole compels us to try and replace Him with idols and in North America these are often idols of materialism, wealth and greed. Vast areas of farmland have been sequestered to raise soybeans and corn to feed vast numbers of animals that are herded together in factory farms, living a miserable existence and polluting the earth with methane and waste, all so we can over indulge and take comfort in how wealthy and self-sufficient we are. As we tuck into our standard American diet of bacon and eggs with buttered toast on the weekend or that “healthy” low-fat (read: high-sugar) fruit yogurt sprinkled with commercially produced sugary granola on weekdays, we would not even dream that what we put in our mouths might be of concern to God. Our idols are so successfully woven into the mundane, every day fabric of our society – into the numerous outfits and footwear we shop for, the large homes and vehicles we buy and accessorize, the multiple vacations we pay for – that we do not question their presence, we do not recognize the lie or see the destruction and we certainly do not connect it with our relationship to the One who created us all. We go to the Baptist or Pentecostal or Presbyterian church on Sunday morning and then after we go to the church of Swiss Chalet or Boston Pizza.
As Pastor Brian Warren would say, I don’t want to throw the pie in your face to serve you a slice. Food and what we eat is not about judging one another. As a woman, I am all too aware of how food can be connected to judgment; one chocolate chip cookie can lead to a row of chocolate chip cookies – maybe even an empty ice cream container – and end with self-flagellation and unrealistic vows of abstinence. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn us but to offer us salvation – a way of escape. With conviction, He lovingly offers us mercy and grace. When we receive His loving kindness and gentleness, we see through His eyes and it changes the way we see the world. With the Servant Leader as our example, overcrowding animals together in filthy conditions and injecting them full of antibiotics and growth hormones so we can eat them does not seem like something we can ignore. Repeatedly raping and depleting once rich, fertile soil to grow endless fields of genetically modified corn and soybeans to feed to factory farmed salmon does not make sense. Eating food-like products mass produced in laboratories with unpronounceable and unrecognizable ingredients makes us consider if their shelf life will surpass our own. On the other hand when we take the food God has created and use our own God-given creativity to produce mouth-watering, nourishing meals (I’m thinking a sprinkle of fresh cut cilantro on a black bean burrito with sweet potatoes and avocado wrapped in a whole grain tortilla and smothered in salsa) we honor our bodies, the earth and its inhabitants as well as our Creator. If Jesus is Lord of my life, then He is Lord of ALL my life, nothing is too small for Him, not even what I eat (especially when it impacts His creation – let’s think “butterfly effect”). So let’s take Jesus shopping, let’s invite Him into our kitchens, let’s ask Him to sit at the table and actually dine with us, instead of just giving Him a cursory nod as we hurriedly mumble rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. When we see our heavenly Father as intimately connected with even the seemingly mundane aspect of our lives, we will remember that He is the reason we live and breathe and have our very being; and we will want to honor Him with every breath and every bite.