by Jody Bennett
Are you a savoury or sweet person? Whether it be hot chips, chocolate, ice cream, pizza or something else, most of us have an unhealthy "food weakness" that delivers a twinge of guilt when we overindulge on it.
More than just guilt, it is scary to think obesity is now the fifth leading risk for global deaths, with at least 2.8 million adult deaths each year as a result of being overweight or obese.
While it is important to manage our diets to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other deadly illnesses, healthy eating often reminds me of a deeper spiritual issue in life.
Sin, such as lying or losing our temper, is like sweet things; it is not something we have to be taught to like. It is our natural inclination.
Whether it be a little white lie here and there, gossip, jealousy, angry outbursts, illegally downloading and stealing a movie off the Internet or something more sinister, we feel that a little "sugar" won't do any harm.
Some of us feel that cutting these "little sins" or unhealthy food out of our lives, would be cutting out all the fun.
Sometimes I think we actually have no idea that what we eat is contributing to a poor quality of life, or we do not yet see the effects of our choices on our bodies and feel there is no need to change our habits.
Some of us have a major health crisis forcing us to re-evaluate what we eat or we may simply know what we are eating is not good for us and would like to change but don't know where to start.
In the same way the outward effects of sin in our lives are not always so obvious and it may take a crisis to draw us to God.
So conversion, becoming a Christian, would be like the moment that one decides to make changes and to commit to living healthily and exercising more.
The Bible is like a fitness and nutrition guide, which will lead some people to change their minds about their lifestyle, while others will start reading it only after they have committed to making changes.
Like a nutrition guide, the Bible is also not going to do any good if it is never read, or if it is read but not put into practice.
The analogy can be taken further as both the Christian walk and healthy living take perseverance and commitment.
They are not just something you choose and then go on living the same way.
Things will change in your life, habits will be different, friends may not understand and mock or shun you, and your time will be spent differently.
We have to be in for the long haul and sometimes there are no visible results for a while.
Also, neither spiritual nor physical perfection is possible in this life and we each achieve our goals to varying degrees.
We will continue to make mistakes and sin, just as we will continue to slip in the odd dessert or block of chocolate.
And like food temptation, we each may have those particular sins that are hardest for us to resist.
Like some Christians, healthy eating fanatics can be rather annoying, boasting about their fitness goals and making everyone else feel guilty about having only salad for lunch.
Do's and dont's about anything are neither attractive nor motivating. But by the same token, some people you can see are glowing with health and energy even though they do not wear their lycra and spandex to the supermarket or comment on your every mouthful!
In the same way genuine Christian's lives should declare the kindness and goodness of God before they even open their mouths.
As with any analogy, however, this one must not be taken too far.
Two major differences between the Christian walk and healthy living are that, while the Holy Spirit may be like our personal trainer in some respects, He is not just sometimes outside us urging us on and explaining our nutrition guide.
Instead the Holy Spirit comes to reside within us when we accept Jesus into our lives, empowering us to do what God commands.
Also, the Bible is not just a fallible nutrition guide, of which there are hundreds of contradictory examples, but the inspired Word of God on which we can totally rely for the truth.
And there is no analogy for God's grace, His undeserved kindness and favour, which took pity on us in our sin and brokenness and made a way through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross, for us to be put into a right relationship with God.•