During this National Eating Disorder Awareness week I wanted to take the time to address an issue I have noticed as someone interested in helping women who are seeking recovery from their eating disorder. My heart is for all women who struggle, whether or not recovery has been a conscious choice of theirs or if they, like many, are still fighting the devastation of their disorder.
That being said, something that has come up as a sort of backlash is people who believe eating disorders are straight out sin and the only thing one with a disorder needs to do is repent. Now, before we go any further I do want to make the point that there are aspects of eating disorders that are sinful. One hundred percent. However, the eating disorder itself is not one hundred percent sinful. Eating disorders are a repercussion of living in a broken world, they stem from brokenness and are surely not the abundance God promises His children.
I do believe we must exercise caution however, especially when it is not our experience (and therefore we may not know the exact ins and outs of a situation), in pointing fingers and calling something a sin. Reference the Gospel and how Jesus treated people. Yes there was a standard of righteousness to be kept and yes we are still called to walk by the Spirit today, but Jesus loved first. He still does today. His love drew people in before He even began to change their heart motives. Love comes before calling people out.
A few months ago I was chatting online with a few women (who are in a focused writing group I am a part of) when one of them interjected my thoughts with these comments:
Sin (gluttony, cruel treatment of the body through deliberate starvation, pridefully wanting to be excessively thin) is the root of eating disorders.
Need healing, it’s in the bible, need to forgive people who hurt us, it’s in the bible, consequences for not forgiving people who hurt us, it’s in the bible, confessing sin about issues around eating and over exercise, it’s in the bible, getting help and godly counsel about these issues… it’s in the bible and leads to peace…
There is a lot I could say about this, but for the sake of time I am just going to pull out the obvious. First of all it is clear to me that this person really has no expertise in this topic and therefore probably should not be speaking on it. What she has said comes across as very hurtful and untrue.
Newsflash: pridefully wanting to be excessively thin is not an actual thing. It’s just not. No one’s eating disorder starts because they (in pride) want to be super thin. That is a symptom of the disorder deceiving the individual. It is not the genesis, nor is it prideful. A disorder might begin after one is on a diet to lose some weight, but if someone truly fell into an eating disorder desiring to be emaciated there is something else going on. Something below the surface that needs to be addressed.
Eating disorders are symptoms of a larger problem. They are not about food or weight and again if one does not know that, they really are in no place to judge.
It becomes a problem when people within the church perpetuate these beliefs because we then have people who are suffering in silence out of fear of speaking up. People who believe they must not be good enough Christians and so they continue to fall deeper into the depths of their disorder, as the enemy carries out his best work in the isolated soul.
I want to make the case that we are already nowhere near where we should be when it comes to ministering to those with mental health needs in the church. I have never stepped foot in a church where the topic of eating disorders was discussed. Never. Not once. There are people (just to give a brief statistic it is said more often than every hour someone is dying of the direct complications of an eating disorder) within the family of God who need this to not be so. There are those outside the gates (so to speak) who could find the hope and abundance God offers if people within the church would get off of their judgement seats and love as Jesus loves.
I want to again reiterate that there is a place to call fellow believers to righteousness. If we have been washed by the blood of the Lamb, we are called to live our lives as a testament to that and again eating disorders are not reflective of the life God would have for us. The thing we must remember is, while all of that is true, we live in a broken world. God’s standard is perfect. We are sinful people. We will never reach perfection on our own and that is why Jesus came. We know this.
Loving others to the foot of the cross so that God can do His redeeming work is the only acceptable way to be in community with other sinners. God does not have a hierarchy of sins. He just doesn’t. It’s us as humans who want to say xyz sin is better or worse than abc sin. It’s a human construct. You point a finger and you have three more pointing back at you.
It is my hope that you understand my heart and why I think it is a mistake to have this belief. Listen, I really do not want to throw the person who said this shade. I wish her well and pray that the Lord would continue to sanctify her, just as He does with all of His children. My purpose in sharing these comments is simply to bring awareness to our thought patterns and shed light on an area the church (as a whole) could improve.
I want the church to be a safe place for everyone, including people with mental health and addiction problems.
Changing gears a bit here, the second comment shared above begs some digging into as well. The Bible is our manna, our instruction manual for life if you will. It’s God’s heart for His children written so that we can know what He expects of us and how much He loves us. These words help us to keep on track. Technically what she said was true, you can find all of that in the Word of God. She is not lying.
The problem is it’s Bible thumping. The problem is the outside world sees us throwing “Bible bandaids” at people and turns away. Please hear me loud and clear when I say this…I am NOT saying we shouldn’t point people to the Word. I am not saying the Bible does not have divine power to heal. As a Christian that would be ludicrous. What begs to be said is that there is a proper way of doing this. What begs to be said is slapping someone across the face with a bunch of scripture while showing no love, compassion or empathy is not going to change someone’s heart.
I am calling for love, for understanding, for the ability to walk hand in hand with people as together we walk towards the foot of the cross. No one, not one, can say they are without sin and whether or not your sin looks the same as mine (or anyone else’s) is really not the issue.
Romans 12:9-10 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.