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Everything is bad for you?

The Life Less Traveled

March 20, 2013
It's official. Anything you could possibly enjoy eating is bad for you. Think I'm kidding? Just name the food, and I bet I can find an online expert to tell you why it's going to kill you.

You can usually break it down into two possible problems. Either the ingredients they dump in it are allegedly toxic, or the process they use to make it loads it with cancer-causing heart attack spores that also make you fat and forgetful.

The Chicken Littles of the world have fired up their laptops and they're blogging about every possible health risk associated with any food known to man. I'm not just talking about hot dogs and bacon here. I'm talking about things like bread, brown rice and skim milk. Skim milk, for crying out loud!

Supposedly, brown rice is loaded with arsenic, skim milk is fortified with skim milk powder that contains oxidized cholesterol, and whole grain breads contain anti-nutrients that keep your body from absorbing healthy minerals. Really?

Everywhere you look, there is a new group of foodies united with a drastically different view on what is healthy. The organic people will tell you fruits and vegetables are dripping with pesticides. The paleos will tell you that gluten is the greatest evil the world has ever known. The vegetarians will tell you the paleos are going kamikaze by eating all that meat. And the "real food" people will tell you you have to move to a farm in Wyoming and grow everything yourself or you might as well climb into a coffin and close the lid.

My favorite part of all this is that what's bad for you is always changing. Remember when we weren't supposed to eat butter and started slapping margarine on everything instead? Well, the jokes on us. Turns out it's just opposite (for now). Remember when we were suppose to watch our weight by drinking diet soda and going low-fat on everything? Turns out the low-fat stuff is loaded with sugar.

Speaking of sugar, that will kill you, too. You have to sweeten everything with honey or maple syrup these days because sugar is sweet but lacking any nutritional value. But maple syrup, on the other hand, is supposed to prevent cancer, lower your risk for heart disease and makes you stronger than a Canadian grizzly bear. No wonder the Mounties are so tough.

The craziest part about it is that all of these people might be right. Just one look at the list of food ingredients that other countries have banned but the United States allows will show you how whacked our food chain has become. But here's my problem with all of this. Everything is so focused on what people are against that there's very little consensus about the what people are for. At the end of the day, even if all these food experts are right, what can I actually eat?

I think sometimes we see the same problem in the church. We hear people talk so much about what they think God is against that we miss out on what He is for. We walk away with a long list of what to avoid, but Jesus didn't die so we could merely avoid sin. He died so we could embrace life. He died so we could sink our teeth into the sweet, juicy goodness of friendship with God.

When we're really chasing this feast of God's friendship, we don't have to worry so much about avoiding the bad stuff because our spiritual appetites begin to change. Who in their right mind would choose a Big Mac over a home-cooked meal with all the fixings? When you see the peace, joy and unpredictable adventure God has to offer, a shallow, self-centered life loses its flavor fast.

Maybe that's why the Bible says to taste and see that God is good, because once you get a taste of the good stuff, it's hard to go back. So, even if the foodies are right and pretty much everything we eat is going to kill us, there's a banquet God's inviting us to enjoy that promises the best life ever.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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