Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Pursuit of Health

Its a New Year and with the New Year often comes resolutions for change. Two weeks ago a friend and I talked about something that we were both seeking to change. We wanted to become healthier. For both of use this means a renewed commitment to exercise as well as being more careful about what we eat. And so our conversation covered topics like nutrition, exercise routines, the gym, what we weighted...all of what you might expect. But then he dropped a word of reflection on me that is staying with me. He referred to 1 Corinthians 6:19.  

If you have grown up in the church you have probably heard this verse referred to in talks about drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, tattoos, piercings and many other things. Indeed, there are many good reasons why we ought to reflect on this verse. But what my friend was suggesting was that perhaps we should be reflecting on this verse in terms of the conversation that we were having. I am embarrassed to say that I had not thought about this at all. 

As the weeks have passed I have begun to get into the routine of exercise and trying to be more aware of what I eat, I find myself reflecting on this verse again and again. While there is an immediate context that the Apostle Paul writes, I think that an overarching principle that we can glean from it is that we are to bring glory to God through the use of our bodies...and maybe living an unhealthy lifestyle of watching TV, eating cheeseburgers and potentially developing a health condition as a result, does not bring glory to God. 

I know that a lot could be said on this topic, but at this point I will offer two reflections:
  • How we treat our own bodies can be a testimony to how much we value ourselves as a part of God's creation. If we abuse them by neglect and poor nutrition, aren't we saying that we don't care for what God gave us? Isn't this an issue of stewardship? 
  • As Christians we are to be agents of kingdom-change and participants in God's agenda. As we care for the body that God gave us, we will find ourselves with greater capacities to serve than we would if we neglected our health. 
In writing what I have, I am acutely aware that for many people healthy food is unaffordable and a gym membership is a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Does this mean that the poor cannot honour God? Indeed we would be wise to be wary of how we apply these principles so not to exclude those who are limited by finances or, for that matter, existing health concerns.

I am also aware that there are people in our culture who seem to take their health very seriously to the point that their physical bodies become an idol. I do not believe that scripture gives license for this type of health-conciousness. While we are to take care of ourselves, we cannot allow the pursuit of health to direct every action of our lives and become THE goal, when I believe it is supposed to be something that can enable a greater service of God.

In conclusion, my friend and I both have reasons for why we want to be in better shape. To be honest some of them are pretty selfish. But the reality is that these selfish reasons can only motivate me for so long. While it is still too early to tell for sure, I believe that what I have written about is something that will resonate more deeply than another diet or exercise regiment. It is a theological  understanding that says that how I treat my body matters. 


  1. Dave and I have actually talked a lot about this over the past year, and are basically in full agreement with what you've said here... to the point where I'm feeling God may be laying it on my heart to take this message into the church, through a program or a free bootcamp or something... it's something that doesn't get talked about from the pulpit very often (if at all; I've never heard it preached) but so, so important. If we're not physically well, we simply can't serve God at our full capacity, the way He intended... and just as we're not to squander the gifts God has given us, why would we do that with our physical selves, through which we are supposed to reflect Him? In a time where physical health falls prey so easily to laziness and "inconvenience", this message is of the utmost importance for believers right now.

    1. Hey Faith, I would love to see how you put this into action when you figure out how!