Sometimes, You Just Abstain

Weight has been an issue for me since college. I’ve struggled for years with losing weight only to gain it back again, and many times, gaining back more than I weighed originally. One thing I always swore to myself was that I would never get over 300 lbs. Last January, that changed. I weighed in at 305 lbs and felt horrible. I was never comfortable. I had to buy clothes that were a size XXXL. I was embarrassed and depressed. I decided enough was enough and began the process of losing all this weight and began to watch what I ate and exercised, even seeing a doctor for help. Since last January, I’ve lost 65 lbs and feel a ton better.

There have been a lot of roadblocks along the way, but one of the most difficult didn’t come from my choices or what other people were eating. Instead, my loved ones and friends were the greatest enemies of my weight loss because of six words. “You can cheat this one time.” Cheating is what got me into this mess in the first place. It was eating things that I don’t need to be eating in excess that caused me to balloon to over 300 lbs. What people don’t understand is that almost everyone I know says that same thing to me multiple times throughout the week. If I were to “cheat this one time” every time someone said that, I would never lose weight. There’s no ill intention behind the statement, but it goes against everything that someone is trying to accomplish when trying to better themselves.

The issue here isn’t the cheating. The issue is being a stumbling block to people who are trying to get right. Whether it’s a drug addict, a person trying to quit smoking/drinking, or a minister trying to get healthy, putting a stumbling block in front of them can be “unintentionally” crippling to their success. To grow closer to God, many of us have temptations that we need to work through. These temptations may not be what others are struggling with, but there is a place and time to abstain from these things when you are around them.

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Romans 14:13–19

Over the last several years, I have been friends with a lot of men who are currently in or have completed drug rehab. I’ve also become friends with a lot of people who have dealt with alcohol addiction. One thing is common with all of them. If their environment doesn’t change, they won’t change either. The last thing I would ever do to a recovering alcoholic is offer them a beer or eat out with them in a restaurant where alcohol is ever-present. If I’m going to hang out with a friend who is trying to lose weight, I’m not going to invite them to lunch at Five Guys. As Paul says in this passage, we are not to put a “stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” If anything, we should sacrifice what we want to help build up another.

This is a HUGE part of discipleship. As mature believers in Christ, we realize that the food we eat isn’t a sin, but it could make life difficult for a brother or sister in Christ who is trying desperately to live a wholistic life of following God and surrendering every part of their life to him. Having a beer isn’t evil, but drinking in front of, or offering a drink to someone struggling with alcoholism can be. Paul continues in Romans 14 explaining why we need to be cognisant of others and their struggles when we’re around them. 

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
Romans 14:20–23

There are Christians who genuinely believe that it is wrong for a Christ Follower to even allow a drop of alcohol to touch their tongue. When around those people, don’t drink. They have a very real conviction in their lives that it is not right. According to Paul, if they were to drink an alcoholic beverage, they would be sinning due to their conviction. They would be acting in opposition to their own faith. Therefore, it’s best not to have a drink with them, because you could lead them to sin against that faith. As fellow believers, we need to urge each other on to a holier way of living and build each other up. In chapter 15, we see the example of Jesus in this very thing.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Romans 15:1–7

Abstinence is necessary at times to build up and help others in their walk with Christ. As a true disciple, that means we deny ourselves so others can flourish. 

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