The other day I went to the doctor for a blood pressure script and she made me stand on the scale, worked out my BMI and told me I was fat and needed to lose weight. Needless to say my first response was “How dare she! Who does she think she is?!”
In my offence I went through a million justifications: “How could she embarrass me like that! Does she think she is telling me something I don’t already know? I’m not nearly as fat as some people! Doesn’t she know I’ve tried? Does she think I want to be like this? I was born with this body type.” etc. etc.
However, the woman is a doctor and she knows the slew of health issues associated with being overweight. Those extra kilos are compromising my health and thereby contributing to the drain on medical resources in this country. For the sake of my health, my longevity, my family and my insurance premiums, I should lose weight. But I didn’t like being told so.
The outrage and justifications were similar when Israel Folau had the temerity to warn people that they were sinners going to hell apart from the forgiveness of Jesus. Being told we’re fat or sinful does not come as news to us, but how dare people point it out!
Truth be told we all know lying to the tax man is wrong, or swearing at our kids, or speeding, or taking drugs, or cheating on our spouse.
And when people point out the elephant in the room, whether our sin or our weight, we have three choices I think.
The first, and easiest, is just to slag them off. Jump on our high horse, go through all our justifications, surround ourselves with like-minded people, moan and groan, and then try to forget the warning and continue living as before.
This was my knee-jerk response to the doctor and the route many have taken in response to Folau. This has led to a society where it is more important not to offend people than to tell the truth. Protecting our feelings has become more sacred than protecting our spiritual and physical health.
And so, stores change clothing sizing, use plus size models and sell T-shirts that say “love the skin you’re in!” And society gives condoms to teens, offers drug testing and sharps bins, and has made it harder to get a mortgage than a divorce, and easier to get a sex change than a fair trial.
And the result? Spiralling levels of depression, suicide, drug use, alcoholism, violent crime and family breakdown. More and more people report being miserable, stressed and lonely.
The second, and hardest response, is to take the criticism on board, muster all our self-discipline and force ourselves to change. We start a diet and join a gym. Or we start attending church and reading our Bible diligently, swear off booze and throw out our porn.
This may work for a while. We get thinner, we feel happier, people comment on the change. Then we get proud. “Hey, I can do this!” Maybe we write a book. Then we get lazy; then we stumble; then we throw the whole thing up as too hard. Been there? I have – in my weight journey and my spiritual walk.
The third option is the most humbling. It involves turning to Jesus and saying, “I know I am fat/sinful. I have tried not to be. It is too hard. Sometimes I don’t even want to change. I can’t do this on my own, please help me. There is so much conflicting information out there, I don’t really know where to start. Please show me how. Give me the desire. Give me the tools. Give me the discipline. Please forgive me for my selfishness and pride. Please take over.”
Because the ultimate question in our lives is not “how do we behave?” or “what should we eat?”; it is “who is in charge?” Christianity is simply putting Jesus in charge of the whole mess and then doing what He tells us. This is not a one-off decision, but a daily surrender, an hourly awareness, a constant obedience. That is what Jesus means by laying down our lives and that is the message of the gospel: “You need help. You can’t help yourself. Jesus can. Give your life to Him because He loves you and cares enough to change you.”