Recently I came to a tipping point. I could no longer ignore the people I had met, the arguments I had heard, and what I had learned. It was time to make a decision.
And it’s a decision I’ve had to remake every day since.
Every meal in fact.
I choose to eat vegetarian.
In some ways, this choice is easy. I’ve accepted seafood (technically making me pescatarian), which allows me to splurge when beans and salads don’t cut it. Three of my housemates have chosen the same diet, so I can depend on them for support and accountability. Hardly any meat enters the house (seafood is too expensive). We enjoy an abundance of delicious, home-cooked meals without meat. And ice cream is meatless.
But then I go to a restaurant and salivate for a chicken sandwich or mushroom swiss burger. I envy the non-vegetarians at my table. Or then I’m packing my lunch for work and eyeing the leftover pasta with ground beef sitting in the fridge at home. Or then someone suggests buying pizza, and I mourn that I won’t get any pepperoni or Hawaiian.
Now there are many things that do not tempt me, but food is one of my weaknesses. Last spring I decided to fast from sweets for one month. The idea was one month would break my sugar addiction and create healthier eating habits. Before the end of the first week, I started making “exceptions.” I decided Fridays could be splurge days. And sugar in coffee or fruit pastries didn’t count.
It was a downward spiral. One “exception” led to more. Pretty soon, I gave up altogether. I felt surrounded by sweets. There was no way to escape, and I couldn’t endure the temptation.
So now when I face a menu, the question is always, “Which will I choose this time?” Each meal presents an opportunity to either follow my temptation or follow my conviction. Will it be the eggs and bacon or cinnamon muffin and power smoothie? Juicy all-beef burger or the avocado salad sans chicken? Teriyaki pork or Cajun rice and beans? Each meal is a choice.
A day can sometimes feel like only a series of meals, a series of choices. Like a vegetarian, every Christian faces a series of choices, from the moment they wake until the moment they drift to sleep.
I’ve heard it said that being a Christian means each day waking up to die again. If a Christian truly wants to live up to the name of Christ, it means giving up himself, emptying himself, and taking on the likeness of Christ (Matt. 16:24). It means to live for Christ and not for himself.
This isn’t something that’s done with a prayer one night when it feels like nothing can be truer than that you are a sinner and Jesus loves you anyway. It isn’t done by asking Jesus to save you, getting baptized in water, or receiving the communion bread and wine. It’s never done. If a Christian, you are not done.
Being a Christian is a daily lifestyle, a series of choices. Each moment the question is, “Which will I choose this time?” Will it be my new self or my old self (Eph. 4:20-24)? Christ or Satan? Heaven or this world? Holiness or sin? Life or death? Each step towards Christ gets easier, and each “exception” makes it harder to turn around again. Christianity isn’t about being “in” or “out.” Rather, it tells the direction you are moving. Are you following Christ or moving away from him?
You see, I couldn’t have decided to become a vegetarian and gone on as I was. It required making a choice the next time I ate. And the time after that. And the time after that. For every meal onwards. The Christian life is the same, whether the vegetarian or Christian chooses their lifestyle because of moral conviction or personal health.