Swimming against the tide

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Last month I addressed the question: Should the church teach health education? Encouraged by the response to this article I am continuing in a somewhat similar vein this month.
Becoming a committed Christian is to choose, by default, to swim against the tide. Indeed, it can be argued that it is impossible to follow Christ and, at the same time, go along with the crowd. If we seek to please men, we cannot please God. If we are seeking first the Kingdom, then we cannot also be seeking those things which the world holds dear – wealth, status, popularity, power etc.
The true Christian is not of this world, but nevertheless we still have to live in it and to say that this can be difficult is an understatement. For the majority of my Christian life (coming up for 50 years now) I never even considered the way I treated my body, other than regards to sexuality, as being relevant to Christian discipleship and now that I do, now that my eyes have been opened, I find myself out of step not only with non-believers, but perhaps even more so with fellow Christians! In fact I usually find greater affinity with enlightened people outside the church than in it! Some American research has shown a closer relationship between obesity and the evangelical church than with society in general. My friends, this ought not to be!
Of course, we do not worship our bodies, as some seem to do, spending an inordinate amount of time and money trying to achieve physical perfection, but we are accountable, as stewards of these magnificent creations we call our bodies, to look after them, to treat them with the respect they deserve. And if we take this call seriously we will certainly find ourselves swimming against the tide.
‘The flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other….’ This is what we read in /Galatians 5:17. We do not want to take a Gnostic view whereby the body is seen as inherently evil, neither would we wish to place matters of personal health responsibility over more overtly spiritual considerations such as developing Christ-like character, but this needn’t be an either/or situation. As we make it our aim to please our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, then surely the more ways we can find to achieve this, the better.
We don’t need to look any further than our discipline (or lack of it) regarding how we eat and exercise to appreciate this battle between flesh and spirit. Maintaining our bodies, just like maintaining anything else we value, takes effort – something which is anathema to our Adamic natures. Christians and non-Christians alike can find this irksome, and although the health messages are coming thick and fast these days through the media, we still want to bury our heads in the sands believing, falsely, that we are alright, that our habits aren’t that bad, that our bodies will hold up under regardless of the choices we make.
Galatians 6:7 reads: ‘Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. What we sow, that we shall also reap.’ We cannot abuse our bodies through having an unhealthy lifestyle and expect to escape the consequences. It won’t happen!
If we take this message to heart (as I hope you do) then living it out in practice will require you to swim against the tide. When you share your concerns with church leadership they will most likely agree with you and then announce that doughnuts will be served before morning service! It’s an uphill struggle.
However, we do not lose hope neither should we grow disheartened. As we persist with this message the truth is beginning to trickle through. Only the other day one of our elders stated that he wondered whether when people come forward for prayer for healing we sometimes pray the wrong prayer – asking God to heal directly when we should be asking God to help them change their lifestyle. YES! (Imagine me here thumping my fist into the air in ecstatic agreement!!)
So, my fellow swimmers-against-the-tide, stick with it – by example, always, and by words of encouragement whenever the opportunity arises. Remember, as I often do, that there was a time when we were equally dismissive of these matters and that, but for the grace of God, we could all be part of the problem instead of part of the answer.
Ephesians 6:10 says: ‘Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.’ This is our answer; this is our enablement. No matter how strong the current of the tide of dissent, God will strengthen our spiritual muscles and cause us to stand, not in our own strength, but always and only in the power of His might. Amen!

Comments

  1. Sue Biggins on August 22, 2014 at 10:49 am said:

    What a fantastic article! I agree with everything that has been said and feel encouraged and not alone.

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