Should the church deliver health education?

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Presenting our health-related ministry at the Christian Resource Exhibition was a fascinating experience. I choose the word ‘fascinating’ very deliberately, because, whatever else it achieved, it was quite an eye-opener in respect to human (Christian?) behaviour in respect to this hot topic.

Strange isn’t it, that whilst the vast majority of churches now accept the validity of praying for the sick and may regularly hold healing services, nevertheless many seem disinterested or even ‘anti’ any suggestion that the church should be seeking to encourage a healthy lifestyle among their flock. Take one minister who, on being halted in his track briefly as I sought to engage his interest in the resources we had to offer, somewhat cockily (I thought) threw me the following challenge as he dismissively walked on: ‘The spiritual or the physical? – think about that one! I wonder if he would have presented the same ‘either/or’ challenge if presented with the suggestion that the church should get involved with social concerns, helping people manage their finances or (historically) the slave trade!

Well, having subscribed to this newsletter, you will have no doubt as to where we stand on this question. Without in any way wishing to detract from the centrality of the ‘Gospel’ through which we declare that Christ is our only means of eternal salvation through his atoning sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection, we nevertheless hold that the God who created us, body, soul and spirit, is profoundly interested in every dimension of our human experience. 3 John 2 states plainly that God’s will is for us is not only to be in good health spiritually but to be in good health physically also. One of the Jehovah name for God is Jehovah Raphah – the Lord who heals.

Thankfully, due to the constant bombardment through the media in respect to soaring lifestyle –related diseases and an NHS which is itself on life-support, there are a number of churches now expressing a desire to educate and warn their congregations of the repercussions of tempting providence in relation to unhealthy eating and lack of exercise.

It isn’t easy to live healthily in our Western 21st century culture which contributes heavily to our reliance on ready meals, meals on the go, fast food, labour-saving devices, passive transport, etc. And everywhere we turn we are bombarded with clever advertising designed to make even the most resilient of us succumb to our cravings for low nutrient, high calorie junk.

In church, sharing food is signature in respect to our social gatherings. What a positive experience this can be! God has given us a huge variety of food for our nourishment and enjoyment and He wants us to partake of his bounty with truly thankful hearts. I’m sure God doesn’t intend for us to forego the pleasures of sharing fellowship around food, but I am equally sure that we could do better in serving up healthier alternatives once in a while.

The Bible has some salient things to say about how we live out both our physical and our spiritual lives. It addresses the issues of stewardship in relation to our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); it speaks of freedom and responsibility in relation to food choices (1 Corinthians 6:12 and 2 Corinthians 10:23); it speaks about walking in the Spirit so that we do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16) – and, yes, much of our excessive eating does fall into this category. And had you ever noticed that not only is the very first recorded sin in the Bible  to do with food,  so too is the first temptation mentioned in the New Testament.

If Jesus is truly to be Lord of our lives then we certainly need to see that manifest in our lifestyle behaviour and if we are to exercise any measure of spiritual authority over the powers of darkness, don’t you think we should be ‘cracking it’ in relation to our own eating behaviour first?!

Looking back over my life as a God-loving, totally sold-out believer there was one issue which was a constant struggle – food – which is why I spent 30 years in obesity. During that time I did not hear a single sermon which so much as mentioned my need to address this disordered area of my life let alone offer any hope that through the power of the Holy Spirit I could gain mastery over it. I was left looking to the diet industry for help and it didn’t work. I felt condemned, ashamed and powerless. But I am convinced that had I been given spiritual and practical tools to help me apply those cherished doctrines of bringing my appetite into submission to Christ; of empowerment through grace, of trusting in God’s promises as opposed to performance-based works – then I could and would have experienced victory a lot sooner.

And this, dear reader, is why I am so passionate about the message that we are bringing to the church – a message, not of condemnation, but of hope, so that  we, as God’s people, can be part of the answer instead of part of the problem. This is why our team of Christian health professionals are committed to putting resources into your hands which will enable you to address such matters with confidence.

Should the Church concern itself with health matters? An unhealthy lifestyle, after all, will not keep us out of heaven. It may, however, help us to get there a lot sooner! In reaching out to others, do we not want to meet people at the point of their need, to speak relevantly into their lives? Of course we do! This isn’t about body image – it’s about being ‘fit’ for the Kingdom and ‘fit for the King’.

Now that reminds me, haven’t I seen a helpful little book by that title somewhere…….?

Comments

  1. lucy Glass on June 9, 2014 at 7:01 pm said:

    been a sufferer of mental health but experienced Gods healing but still takeing Gods gift of medication there have been sides due to certain medication weight has been a problem,
    the so called illness makes me a person I like and respect, been on a how to stop dieting and start living attitude, a new way of looking at myself I have felt a supernatural freedom the weight is not perfect but my desire is to improve my whole wellbeing, to be a light for people I walk with to help my fellow sufferers , I really truly think there is so much MORE out there to help us I love me and you know what God loves me to

  2. I would like more resources to help me with my eating habits as a Christian please! The secular world abounds with dieting advice but it fails to address the central problem dealt with in your book. So many Christians are following diets and there is definitely a hunger and a need to lose weight and become healthier in the Christian community. I worked hard to follow a secular online food diary, logging everything that I ate and drank for 20 months. All that effort, and at the end of it I have put back on most of the weight I lost. I’m now convinced that this approach only succeeds in helping people become obsessed with food and calories, and this is NOT God’s way.

  3. God requires we care for our temples that He says He wants to reside in. Christians today need to be taught the that respecting your body and health is respecting the creation God made you to be. Anything less than being a good steward of your body and health is a slap in God’s face. Once a Christian grasps this simple principle, he can begin to look at God’s biblical design for healthy living: His children lived long healthy and prosperous lives because they were close to His spirit then ate organic, drank pure water, breathed clean air, and exercised daily. Today we must be very conscience about our polluted environment and reject the poison that surrounds us: sedentary lives, poor food/water/air quality, chemical and electrical pollution, and the ever disturbing poison of out-of-control ungodly media. As He has so definitively made clear, we must be set apart! And taking our Temple of God and caring for it proves we love Him AND His plan for long live which is perfect and good and true.

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