A couple weeks back, on the first day of my sociology class, my professor split the whole class into groups and gave us all a bag full of items found in the everyday home. He asked every group to identify how each item could “speak about” families (yes, he worded it that weirdly). One of the items in our bag was a small packet of Sweet’n’Low.
I immediately identified this item to represent how families can act sweet to one another, when they are really just being fake with one another.
…. Why did this thought come to me so immediately?
…. Why was my whole class so quick to agree with me in that sentiment?
It’s because, at some point, we all have either been fake with ourselves or had to deal with fake people in our lives, and we all have known the experience to be a bitter one!
Sugar is bad for you. Sugar is bad. One of my god-sisters (a daughter of my god-parents), recently asked me about sweeteners as they pertain to health issues. The truth is that it is natural for people to turn to sweeteners once they cut out sugar from their diets. We like sweets! Another truth is that there is so much research both ways on the disadvantages of sweeteners healthwise, that it is really hard to say whether sweeteners are bad for you or not. There certainly isn’t enough data on either side of this argument for me to feel justified in taking a stance on it, personally. (Although, there is a lot of data which suggests that artificial sweeteners may heighten your blood sugar more than that of natural sweeteners.)
As an aside, mixing sweeteners can help eliminate the bitter aftertaste that most sweeteners are known for. I honestly haven’t found any sweetener that tastes quite right for me. Sugar just tastes better than the fake stuff. This may be why I have found that natural sweeteners taste slightly better to me, as well.
I was in a conversation with another faux sister of mine (if you will), where we were talking about emotions and such–nothing sappy, we are way too cool for that! 😂
We talked about how there is a need to do the right thing and be respectful towards people, even when you’re angry; however, you still need to get your emotions out somehow. This conversation eventually led us to discuss how so many people try to act happy when they are really angry or sad or whatever – these people often hold their emotions all in, and this is extremely unhealthy!
We also discussed how a lot of people demonize angry music, violent video games, etc., when in reality these things can allow one to release pent-up rage. This is actually one of the healthiest ways to deal with anger, in my opinion. Venting through a form of art allows one to stay calm and respectful in situations that may cause you to be angry otherwise – knowing that you will have the opportunity to vent later.
One must be real with one’s self and sort out their own emotions, in order to deal with them. Finding a way to do this is key for mental health. Forcing yourself to act happy and pretending to be sweet, when you are upset, will eventually make you bitter.
My best friend, Doctor Showbizhair, once pointed out to me that stevia had a bitter undertone to it. I had never noticed it before he mentioned it, but afterwards, I began to taste it.
I have had a very similar experience with the Christian church in America. Before I really studied the Bible and saw what God was truly after, I didn’t notice a lot of the bitterness that the church had been hiding.
In the past few years, I have moved a few different times, for college and other reasons. I have attended many churches and served on staff at many churches. Some were good; some less so. Through my experiences, I have discovered a lot of “fakeness” in the church. It has become, in many ways, an artificial version of what it was meant to be.
I have heard church leaders preach such a loving message that they never mentioned God’s judgment or man’s sins, thus they unwittingly voided the need for salvation. We must understand that sin is sin and that God judges sin with hell-fire! To ignore this is to become so sweet that we lose our substance. People know this kind of message is fake; they can tell! Just as some sweeteners can taste sweeter than sugar, these churches taste sweeter than the truth – it is fake and it has a bitter undertone!
I have also heard groups of people who call themselves “Christians” and pass judgment so quickly on others that they totally forget to spread the message of grace. These “Christians” are overly harsh and they only put others down for their sins, instead of leading people to Christ in order to be built up. This is not real Christianity, as real Christians should be known firstly for their real love (1 John 4). This type of “Christianity” claims the sweet news of the Gospel, but it is bitter to anyone who hears it.
Just as mixing two sweeteners together can help cancel their bitterness, we must mix the message of love and hope with the substance of judgment, for those who don’t turn to Love Himself and repent of their sins.
In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing. Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them (Ecclesiastes 7:15 – 18 ESV).
One fascinating thing that I have noticed with these verses is how so many people will read it and want to assume that it is talking about “self-righteous” people. It never says self-righteous. The Bible clearly says you can be too righteous – referring to your actions as a good man. This wisdom is for the believer and unbeliever alike. You can do too much and thus cause your own premature destruction!
Why do I mention this here?
Because, we can make ourselves work so hard at being genuinely righteous that we overwork ourselves and thus become irrelevant. This is a form of being artificial both with yourself and with the world around you; this is a bitter form of righteousness.
God commands that we rest on the seventh day! God did not even exempt Himself from the principle behind rest, thus none of us are exempt. We are required by God, by the Word, and by Wisdom to enjoy some R&R from time to time. We must play a video game, watch a good movie, take a vacation, or something! For many of us, relaxing is a discipline, because we get easily wrapped up wanting to make a difference – this is a good thing – but God requires us to rest also!
We must, as the saying goes, “live to fight another day!”
But, we must also, as Captain Jack Sparrow has said, “fight to run away!”
The other part of this passage in Ecclesiastes declares that the wicked and the fool are also to die before their time. This is speaking of the lazy people in the world – you know them. They are the oh-so-many “Christians” who rest the six days then go to church that one other day. This is not genuine at all! Where you spend your time is where you will find your god!
If you spend most of your time with video games, then that is your god.
If you spend most of your time with a significant other, then that person is your god.
If you spend most of your time on Netflix, then that is your god.
If you spend most of your time at work, then that is your god.
Anyone who calls themselves a “Christian” but does not spend time in their Bible, praying, helping others, or preforming any other kingdom work is an artificial Christian – these people leave bitter aftertastes with everyone around them!
Again, we find the middle ground necessary. We must learn to work diligently for the kingdom 6/7ths of our time, then we must relax and rest that other 1/7th of our time!
“Josh, you are being very harsh about this!”
“Yeah, I am, just like Jesus was. This is what ‘real’ looks like – calling people out on all their artificial crap!”
Christians are called to be salt – not sugar, not sweeteners, not fake! There is so much talk about wanting real change in America. Well, what if change started with the individual?
We would begin to be real with ourselves and not disguise our own emotions – this allows us to see our real selves and know how we can change ourselves.
What if we started change in our churches?
We would begin to live out our lives with real Christianity, discipling real people – this is what starts real change. This real change would not just stay in the churches; I believe this would start a movement nationwide! This could bring real change in America – maybe even in the whole world – and it starts with me; it starts with you!
Real people are the only ones who can accept and create real change!
Reading / Reference List:
Keto-Clarity, by Jimmy Moore, is a great book about all things low-carb (low-sugar), including information on artificial and natural sweeteners.
Ecclesiastes is a great book in the Bible, full of wisdom about how not to be too harsh or too soft…. but, hey, just read all of the Bible, why don’t you?? You should!