Coloratura Christian

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:4-5)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Does Thin Equal Beautiful?

While browsing the Girl Talk blog, I came across a link to Ed Welch's message, Does Thin Equal Beautiful?. This grabbed my attention because I love Welch's book, When People are Big and God is Small.

I was surprised when he answered his own question with, "Yes, in our culture, thin equals beautiful."

It was a good reminder of the subtlety and danger of legalism in our lives. He is specifically talking about our Western obsession with food, diet, beauty and the wide spread problem of eating disorders. However, as he unpacked what an eating disorder was, it really just came down to legalism, and I found his message applicable to any area of life that legalism taints.

As a teenaged ballerina, my friends and I were all obsessed with food and our weight. In fact the amount of time we wasted thinking on these topics would probably be shocking to some people. I was amazed at Welch's insight into the life of a woman with an eating disorder.

It really is a works-righteousness. You sort of try to meet God half way, probably without realizing that is what you are doing. There is a sense of elation or worthiness when you have eaten well (in other words, very little), and a deep, overwhelming sense of guilt if you have eaten too much, which can only be explained as guilt over breaking a self-imposed law.

It is a matter of feeling guilty or righteous before God, yourself and other people based wholly on what you yourself have done.

Besides eating habits, in how many other areas of our lives do we fall into this pattern of thinking. Do we feel righteous or guilty based on how clean our house is, how much hospitality we have shown, how much we have evangelized, or how much time we have spent reading the bible that day?

Obviously these are all good things, but how easy it is to fall into the trap of feeling we are contributing to, or lessening our righteous status by doing (or not doing) these things well. A status that is in truth based exclusively on the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

When we fall into legalistic thinking, we are very much consumed with self. For this reason, Welch says it is often not enough to say pat Christian phrases such as, "Jesus thinks your beautiful" or "you need to find your identity in Christ." As true as these things may be, Welch says there is a need to find something greater outside of ourselves that draws our thoughts outward to something infinitely more beautiful than ourselves.

Welch uses the example of the throne room of God as described in Revelation 4. When standing before this holy God in all His majesty, we will not be thinking about ourselves. It would be nearly impossible for a person to be standing in such an awesome presence and be thinking about their appearance or clean house or good works.

After turning our eyes to Christ, his second point is that we should begin to think about other people. Not in a self serving kind of way, but rather thinking on how we can serve others and love others.

It seem that the "cure" for this type of self absorbed legalism boils down to Jesus words in Matthew 22,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.


  • At February 11, 2006, Blogger Dan S. said…

    Thanks Christel! I like the way you (or Welch) put that. Who are we to thing we can contribute to our righteous status? When we attempt to do that, we fall into the trap of legalism.

  • At February 12, 2006, Blogger Marlene S. said…

    Dan had told me this was a good post. Probably because it is a sad reflection of my struggles. I have the goals of serving my family by "cleaning the house, cooking well, etc." and yet I get so distracted from the serving element of it. It is so obvious because I end up berating myself for not accomplishing MY goals the way I (big I) want them done. Oh that I would understand God's grace and mercy and rest more in it.

  • At February 13, 2006, Blogger Ian said…

    Wow, I'd never thought of things like eating disorders (and lesser forms of 'weight watching') as legalism and works righteousness.
    I'm sure that insights like this would be helpful to pastors who are trying to counsel members of their flock who struggle with this.

  • At March 14, 2006, Blogger Higher Voltage said…

    Christel, I thank you for the encouragement and the rebuke!
    Jess Stowe


Post a Comment

<< Home