Thursday, 25 July 2013

Allergies, Grace, Fellowship, and Thankfulness

Doug Wilson is a pastor and counselor who recently wrote about allergies, and how "boutique allergies" disrupt fellowship. I've spent the past two months considering his stance, and I have a few thoughts to share. 

First of all, I understand - in a sense - where Pastor Wilson is coming from when he speaks of people with boutique allergies. Obviously they are "out there" in the world. They might jump from one allergy fad to the next, hypochondriac style. They might come to church and have a new dietary restriction each week.

The thing is, though, how are we to know they are faking? I ask this because of my own experience. 

I am a woman riddled with allergies - more than I care to list. I react to various foods in many different ways. Blisters, joint pain, intense agony in my gut, headaches, chills, and depression are some of the things with which I suffer when I eat something I shouldn't. For the past 13 years my life has been a process of figuring out what is best for my body so that I can actually function as a reasonably healthy human being. There are foods that I have avoided for years, now, and other foods that I only recently realized were an issue. Sometimes it seems like I have a new food issue every week. My reaction is not, "Oh yay, another food fad I can follow!". My reaction is: It sucks, pal. 

I know this makes it difficult for the church, and for my friends, whenever food is involved. As Pastor Wilson mentioned, sometimes I want to just "soldier on" and eat foods I shouldn't so that I am not a bother or an inconvenience to anyone. 

However, I'm slowly realizing that this drastically limits Christian fellowship. Let me deal with the idea of "boutique allergies" first, and then I want to share a few other thoughts. 

As I already stated, I'm not sure how anyone can be sure that someone is faking an allergy. But to go further, even if we could prove that someone was faking their allergies, does that mean we should? Is it really in the interest of fellowship to call someone out on their dietary absurdity? What if our attempt at leading them to reality would, in fact, "destroy the one for whom Christ died"? Certainly there may be times when a brother or sister in Christ could lovingly address the issue, and try to point out the facts of the matter. I'm not saying that should never be done. I am just not certain Pastor Wilson's take on the matter is the very best one, or the one most akin to fellowship in Christ. Boutique allergies may disrupt fellowship, but so would callous dismissal of someone's (imagined or real) intolerance. Shaming someone into giving up even their fads is not conducive to grace in Christ Jesus. In either case, the body of Christ should act with grace. Believers should deal kindly with one another. We should always seek to lead people to grace, not to shame. 

Now, a word about the humbling fellowship and grace I have been shown. From the time my church family knew about my (and my family's) allergies, they have always sought to accommodate us. They have extended such accepting fellowship, and have gone out of their way to bring us in. It is enough to bring me to tears, and I thank God for the absolutely wonderful, sincere kindness of the church. They ask about our allergies, and try to find alternatives so that we may share in fellowship, rather than leaving us to fend for ourselves. I have had friends go out of their way to find treats that I can eat. They don't need to do it, but it seems they want to do it out of the kindness of their hearts. This, to me, is a wonderful show of grace and love. I am so thankful for their generosity. 

Trust me, my allergies are a burden and an annoyance; but by the redeeming grace of God they are also an opportunity for grace and love. I am consistently floored by my church family, and by my friends. 

So, to my friends: thank you so much. You have offered such hospitality, and you constantly remind me that there is no form of brokenness that cannot be redeemed and restored through love. 

5 comments:

  1. My view on food allergies is that if it doesn't send me into anaphylactic shock then it's okay to eat. :3

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  2. Anonymous, you do not understand what someone with celiac disease and related (secondary) allergies experiences on a regular basis. If you were to eat something that caused intense gut pain accompanied by severe bloating so that you appear to be about 7 months pregnant, followed by a trip to the bathroom with wracking diarrhea, then subsequent rashes or cankers or oozing skin sores, perhaps you'd amend your "anaphylactic shock" comment. You have no idea.

    This is not said to be unkind. But until you walk a mile in the shoes of a person with an auto-immune disorder or a disease such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease, you should try not to be so flippant.

    I found Pastor Wilson's comments to be extremely offensive.

    I agree with your assessment, Linda, that our church family has been gracious and kind. I am thankful, too.

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  3. Is everyone in your family always so serious? :O

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  4. 100% serious about half the time. :)

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  5. http://www.sfgate.com/news/medical/article/Peanut-allergy-suspected-in-teen-summer-camp-death-4695557.php

    Now I feel bad joking about allergies :[

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By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach. ~Winston Churchill

Smart guy.