life with god

During the Covid pandemic, I have spoken to several people who've said how important it has been for them to have a good routine while confined at home. What caught my attention was the many times people mentioned movement and healthy eating as part of their 'Good Life Routine.' It got me thinking about this season of pandemic, in contrast to how we tend to relate to our bodies in what might be considered normal life (remember that?!).

You can pretty much guarantee that when people began hearing on the news about this mysterious virus that was making lots of people sick, one common response was to send up a prayer. Whether you would usually call yourself a believer or not, prayer is a common response when we feel afraid or not in control. I imagine people prayed to be kept well, they prayed for protection, perhaps they prayed for a strong immune system. They prayed for themselves and they prayed for those they care about. Some people may have prayed similar things for their neighbours, or their nations.

At times of uncertainty, we pay attention to things we take for granted under normal circumstances. Like God, and our bodies.

I've certainly had lots of experience of taking my body for granted! I've failed to feed it, failed to listen to its need for rest, failed to give it the medical attention or recovery time it needed. Similarly, I have lots of experience of assuming that God - and my life with God - has nothing, or very little, to do with my body. Sure, like many people I would pray when I got sick, but otherwise I didn't consider the state of my health to be something God was especially interested in. And I sure as hell didn't think that my being a Christian meant anything at all in regards to my body (apart from maybe not having sex before marriage). Surely Christianity's about spiritual stuff, right?!

a missing perspective

I'm not sure how it was possible for me to be raised in a church-going family and still think that way. When I say 'church-going' I'm not just talking about attending church services at Christmas and Easter. Not at all. I am talking mid-week prayer meetings, youth group on Fridays, and church twice on Sunday. That is a lot of preaching, bible, and singing of theology, right there!

So, how is it possible that we missed the fact that God is in fact very interested in people's bodies? Think of all the scriptures in the Old Testament where he tells the Israelites - his model of how he wants to work with people - what to eat, what not to eat, when to wash their hands, how to avoid getting sick, what to do when they did get sick, when to rest, when to have sex, when not to have sex ... I could go on. (Sure, the bible doesn't explicitly say that people should get off their arses and move their bodies. That was kind of a given in those days of walking, gardening, hauling water and putting tents up then taking them down again.)

In the New Testament, we see that Jesus cared about people's bodies too. He healed so many sick people, he fed people, he ate with them, he washed their feet, he cared when they were weary, he told them to use their eyes, their ears, their hands, their feet in the work of being Jesus people on the earth.

How did we lose this idea that being a follower of Jesus isn't some ethereal non-physical experience, but is lived out in our flesh and blood? How did we miss that how you and I live in our bodies has everything to do with what it means to be God's kingdom people?

what would jesus say?

Somehow we took wisdom from the bible and made it all about non-physical realities. Just one example:


"Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy ... If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them" 

(From Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4).

Is it possible, that as well as using our mouths to say encouraging words, renewing our thoughts and attitudes might also cause us to use our mouths to eat food that nourishes and sustains our bodies in healthy ways? Could it be that in our culture Jesus might have said,

"Oh guys, quit eating that hormone-infused meat, that sugary soda, and that fatty dessert. That's going to leave you feeling awful and unable to keep up with me when we hike around the countryside to tell people the good news of the kingdom. Instead, fuel your body with the things that give you energy and make you feel alive. That's the life God created you to have!"

Or maybe he'd say,

"Come on, people, all this sitting around watching Netflix isn't doing you any good at all. It's been a long time since you've used your body in some good hard movement. Let the things you do during your day be good and helpful, so that you are built up in strength and liveliness. That way you can be an effective example to those around you of the good life God intends people to have!"

God's good life IS LIVED IN YOUR BODY

If there is one thing of which I have become increasingly certain, it is that we were never meant to live this life in our bodies as if the physical part of who we are is outside our relationship with Father, Son and Spirit. This is about so much more than praying when we get sick, although that is good too. It's about being renewed in our thoughts and attitudes towards our physical life, a renewal that is the work of the Spirit. This means that the Spirit of God - given to us as helper, the one who walks alongside us to empower us to make choices that lead to Life - is available to enable us to move from good intentions to good practices.

This is how we build a life: one small, Holy Spirit empowered choice at a time. Choices that we make in our bodies, with our bodies and for our bodies. So that we can be kingdom people, living lives that manifest the goodness of God, sharing that goodness with others, and inviting them to join in.

And if that ain't enough to get you out of bed in the morning, I don't know what to tell you!