The ultimate detox

Cabbage soup

Have you ever ‘detoxed’? According to, four million Brits attempted to give up alcohol for January last year.

Despite the high failure rates, we love to detox. Not because Gillian McKeith nags us to, but because it makes us feel better about ourselves. We see it as reparation for our excesses.

The Christmas puddings caused us to do wrong, so now we must be punished with cabbage soup. As well as a temporarily slimmer waistline, detoxing gives us a sense of balance, of peace.

Naughty but nice

The language of indulgence and detox is borrowed directly from our religious traditions; ‘naughty’ cakes; ‘guilty’ pleasures. Slimming World even calls calorific foods ‘sins’.

This stems from our inherited idea of religion as some kind of heavenly balancing act, where our bad actions must be outweighed by good.

Most religions tell us that our salvation or higher state is achieved through doing good things, adhering to laws, self-denial or achieving a more disciplined state of mind.

Even certain Christian denominations have been prone to preach that forgiveness and a right relationship with God is to be achieved by attending church, reciting prayers or even self-flagellation. In a terrible irony, through its efforts to ‘be good’ and please God, the church continues to obscure the greatest secret of all.

Martin the monk

So ingrained in our collective psyche is the idea of earning salvation, that theologians such as Martin Luther remain famous for challenging it.

After years as a self-denying monk, Luther came to realise that nothing he could do, even sleeping out in the snow in harsh winters, could earn God’s favour. His revelation that the work had already been done once and for all transformed the church.

The truth was in the Bible all along, but had been too hard for many to accept: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

So good, it’s criminal

So why do many people still cling to their good deeds? I suggest that Christians give to charity, read the Bible and try to be ‘nice’ people because it makes life feel fair and feeds our sense of pride.

But the harsh and beautiful reality is that grace is far from fair. It’s scandalous and we are the beneficiaries.

Moments before he died, a hardened criminal acknowledged that Jesus, who was being crucified alongside him, was God’s son. Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Wailing into dancing

Even knowing this, I’m often tempted to beat myself up over my latest transgression. When that happens I try to turn that thought into gratitude. My failings remind me that even my greatest efforts can never be enough, but Jesus chose to die in my place, so that I am free to have a relationship with him.

His gift wasn’t so that we could rush out and gorge ourselves on deep-fried sins, but rather live happy guilt-free lives in gratitude.

King David wrote: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”

If you resolve to do just one thing this year, I challenge you to find out more about the wonderful, difficult, beautiful, shocking reality that is grace.

There’s a reason they call it amazing.