Woman Alive's editor Tola Doll Fisher explains that as Christians, it's a bad idea for us to adopt a 'flexitarian' approach to faith.
Here’s a popular joke that has been around for a while: "How can you tell if someone’s a vegan?" and the answer is: "They’ll tell you." It’s funny and in my experience, true because people can get very evangelistic about their diet preferences and quite frankly it’s annoying. However, I’m also no stranger to ordering off the menu at restaurants or opting for an alternative milk with my morning coffee and while some people might see this as faddish, for me personally, they are essential for my body to be at its best.
In the last decade or so, society has caught on to the health benefits of abstaining from or restricting certain foods. So we now have a dedicated month to those who want to try out that way of life. Veganuary, which takes place in, you guessed it, January, claims to have inspired and supported more than 2.5 million people to try a vegan lifestyle since 2014. This has also resulted in a new group who call themselves, flexitarians. According to Healthline.com the "Flexitarian Diet" is a style of eating that encourages eating mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation. Essentially the term – which includes me - means we pick and choose when we want to adhere to a certain diet and while it’s probably fine to do this with my food intake, I was recently challenged to consider the parallels when it comes to spiritual integrity.
As a married woman, not once did I hear about working on our relationship with money or the difficulty with coveting other people’s stuff.
As Christians, sometimes we focus on the “big” things that might affect us negatively like our sexual relationships or our tithing. But what about the other “little foxes” that can also crop up in our lives like greed or jealousy? I’ve sat in church as a single person and heard many, many sermons preached on the importance of marriage and sexual purity. As a married woman, not once did I hear about working on our relationship with money or the difficulty with coveting other people’s stuff. The unspoken teaching in this situation was that the heavy hitters had been covered under the covenant of marriage and that nothing else really mattered.
Let’s look at Galatians 5:19-25: "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."
Why do we focus so hard on some “sins” but neglect others?
Are we sitting in churches, blind to the evidence of these acts of the flesh that we rarely think twice about? Why do we focus so hard on some “sins” but neglect others? And how many of us really live out that commandment to love, that our Lord Jesus proclaimed as the most important: "One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, 'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?'
"'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these.'" Mark 12:28-31.
In 1 John 4:20 we read: "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."
Christianity is not a fad and there’s no such thing as a flexi-Christian.
In my experience it’s pretty easy to love those we like and who are good to us, but becomes a bit trickier when we face disagreements or disagreeable people (cancel culture anyone?). Although, since moving out of London, I feel a warmer sense of love towards my fellow human when I’m not being squashed up against clammy armpits on the tube. Ultimately, while we might fall short of one or many of the fruits of the Spirit, let’s be fully conscious of all of the potentially derailing acts of the flesh. We cannot pick and choose which parts we adhere to or use to hold others to account. Christianity is not a fad and there’s no such thing as a flexi-Christian.