By Pastor Roger P. Felipe
Weight-watchers. Nutrisystem. Mediterranean diet. Paleo. Living healthy has become a craze, although obesity in our country, rather legitimizes it. For many people it is about looking and feeling better, living longer, stronger and disease-free. These are all important reasons for eating clean, exercising, and learning to rest our bodies sufficiently.
For Christians, however, trying to maintain healthy habits finds its motivation in more than adopting diet fads to longevity and better quality of life. Taking care of our bodies is stewardship. That is, it is a reflection of our recognition of having been created by God, and how our lives can be instruments in his hands to serve and honor him on earth. Of course, God can use both the healthy and the unfit for his purposes, including the sick, feeble, and dying. Human worth and value is not in question.
The reality is that our earthly lives are only a speck in the sands of eternity. However, Christ followers understand that life doesn’t belong to them. It is a gift from a Good Father who entrusted them with a brief span of years that should be invested in loving others and making our world a better place. For those who have believed in Christ and experienced God’s forgiveness of sin, the reason for taking care of their bodies goes beyond living longer and healthier. It’s about honoring Jesus Christ with all of life, including the way they take care of their bodies.
In his book, “The Unknown God: Searching for spiritual fulfilment,” Oxford University professor, Alister McGrath, describes the parable of Plato’s Cave, a story about people enslaved inside the cave oblivious to the reality that existed on the outside beyond the flickering shadows which they knew. That is, until the day someone was able to find their way out and discover a world beyond description, a world of beauty and splendor. McGrath writes, “Our desires have become attached to things that are little more than shadows, when they are meant to be attached to something which cannot decay or disappoint” (32).
How does this relate to healthy living? Focusing on living healthier and longer, like any other pursuit we might obsess about, really reveals a spiritual longing in our souls for something more: eternity. Whether is it longing for a “perfect” relationship that often disenchants, earthly riches that can quickly vanish, or a healthy and strong body that is suddenly brought to a standstill due to an unexpected medical report, our hearts are longing for something beyond what this world can provide.
McGrath probes us to consider this question: “Suppose our longing for fulfilment points to something we have yet to discover? What if our yearning is a clue to the meaning of the universe?” (10). Taking care of your body and staying healthy is a good thing, but it isn’t everything. The truth of the matter is, whatever we pursue in life has a way to deceive us to think that by attaining “it” our lives will be complete. They’re not. Deep inside a voice continues to remind us that our longings for fulfillment are like signposts in the sky pointing us to something beyond ourselves. Could that something (Someone) be our Creator?
May you achieve physical well-being and wholeness. But may you also discover the gift of eternal life which Jesus promises to all who believe and trust in him alone. “…I have come that they may have life, and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). I would enjoy exploring with you the meaning of life and God.
Roger P. Felipe is the Discipleship Pastor of Venture Church in Naples, Florida. Venture Church meets on the campus of FSW State College on Lely Cultural Blvd. in East Naples. For times and directions, visit www.venturenaples.com.