Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Christian Call to Exercise

Many would respond to yesterday's post that the world has grossly skewed the importance of bodily health and appearance, a rejoinder I wholeheartedly accept. It is true that the world has gone body-crazy. One would not be crazy to say that far from a spiritual or philosophical standard, many of the current age define themselves most fundamentally by the way their body looks. Anyone with a conscience and an ability to make rational conclusions can see that this is quite unhealthy. Christians have no part with such thinking, and must carefully guard against it.

But we ought not to run so fast from one extreme that we crash into another. This would be a grave mistake. It would lead us to conclude that our appearance has no value or importance to anyone--God, us, other people. This is simply not true. God desires us to be good stewards of what we have. He has invested us with His image, made us in it, and sent His Son to be a person. The image does not float over our head. It is in us. And Christ was not a disembodied spirit--He was a man. We can assume with certainty that He was not caught in the trap of body-image self-conceptualizing. But can we not also say that He likely took care of His body? Do you really see Christ as flabby, grungy, and slovenly? I don't have much to go on, but based on the value He placed on humanity, I'm willing to go with the assumption that He valued His body. I'm guessing that He took care of it and stewarded it well. We can know with certainty that He lived a disciplined life. After all, He embodied a disciplined life. Would this not naturally lend itself to a disciplined eating pattern that would in turn lend itself to a healthy appearance?

If we answer this question honestly, I'm pretty sure that we'll end up holding a common position. Though the Bible does not break open the dietary habits of Christ, it does reveal His character, and character is connected to the way we care for our body. When we are frequently gluttonous and undisciplined, our body usually reflects this. When we are moderate and disciplined in our eating habits, our body usually reflects this. Of course, some have physical problems that interfere with a fitful appearance, and we must sympathize with them. But many of us, yes, many of us responsible, godly, otherwise disciplined Christians have for some reason checked our discipline at the door when it comes to eating. This is a sad reality, and we ought to realize that such behavior dishonors God. We do not seek the "Abercrombie" body for guys, and we do not seek the waifish image for girls. We seek a healthy, hearty appearance, for this reflects true physicality and wise eating patterns. We do not let the world determine the way we look. But neither do we let indulgence determine our appearance. We are, after all, those who seek the mind of Christ and the glory of God in all things. Surely, "all things" includes our body, the vessel given us by God for His glory.


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