An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

Standing on the opposite side of what early Christians called “acedia” or sloth is the workaholic whose mind at the very least, and body often move compulsively.
They function differently and, therefore, have unique individual and societal impacts, but, in the end, both expressions are well outside of God’s intention for us.

Humans are brilliant at embracing extremes. The cheap fragrance of self-sufficiency tempts us at every corner.

We struggle mightily, however, to identify, embrace and maintain balance in just about anything, for that is truly where life’s most grueling challenges are located.

Physical fitness is one of our biggest stumbling blocks.

America’s “love-hate relationship” with food is well documented. We are one of if not the most obese nations in the world.

We will supersize anything – candy bars, beverages and entire meals. You name it; we’ll find a way to maker it bigger.

Many people live functionally sedentary lives. Even though they may go to work every day and look reasonably fit from the outside, they are slowly wasting away on the inside because of what and how they eat.

Unfortunately, other maladies like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating also factor significantly into America’s disordered approach to food.

Whether we are emotional or social eaters, we crave certain foods and how they can make us feel.

On the other side of the coin, thinking of our penchant for extremes, we find a legion of self-professed “crunchy” women and men who might say, “They don’t live to eat, they eat to live.”

They champion organic or natural unprocessed foods and generally some high form of ecological stewardship.

It wouldn’t be fair to characterize them as never eating cookies or a piece of cake, but it is fair to say that their diet is probably more restrictive than most Americans.

Fast food, eating out often, and overall excess wouldn’t rightly reflect their values.

Then there are the gym gurus, full of as much tribalism as their aforementioned counterparts.

They are often dedicated to all things CrossFit and the world of energy gels, stopwatches and calorie counting. They live and breathe to exercise and pray that you will too.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 admonishes us to recognize our body as a holy residence of God’s spirit.

Because of this, I am neither advocating for fad dieting nor advising that we kill ourselves for an Adonis physique or sculpted female frame with curves in all of the right places.

It is an error to worship the body, but just as much as it is to neglect or abuse it. The body is not an experiment like Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV,” that is to be constantly pushed beyond its limits.

No matter its particular limitations and quirks, your body is a precious gift that you should honor God with by treating it with great care.

At the very least, this means getting adequate rest and sleep as well as committing to a lifestyle of physical fitness and healthy eating.

Some of us have genetic disorders, physical conditions and other medical hiccups that limit our fitness level.

We may never reach the fitness heights of others, but that doesn’t preclude us from doing the best with what we have.

We all have the capacity to begin right where we are and take it one day at a time in consistently improving our lot for a healthier body and life.

A few weeks ago, a woman’s car stalled in the middle of the Target parking lot. With a toddler in the back seat, she seemed frustrated and scared, especially as no one stopped to help her.

I walked over and asked her to put the car in neutral, which would allow me to push it forward and then get in front to push it backward a few hundred feet into a parking space. All I needed her to do was steer.

After pushing her mid-sized, four-door sedan out of harm’s way and learning that her boyfriend was in route to help, I accepted her thanks and went on my way.

In my car catching my breath, I thought of how my ability to help this woman correlated with eating healthy and being committed to physical fitness. God was able to use me because I have chosen to treat my body well.

That is ultimately what physical fitness is all about – being in a better position to help ourselves and others as extensions of God.

However, this requires the sacrifice of preventative and regular maintenance on your body.

Mental and spiritual health are important as well, but we can’t neglect the physical.

You don’t need to be a triathlete or fitness aficionado. Just get moving in the right direction.

James Ellis III is a writer and senior pastor of Peace Fellowship Church in Washington, D.C. You can view his blogs here and follow him on Twitter @PastorPoet.

Share This