"Healthy in body, Strong in Spirit." - 3 John 1:2

"Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit." - 3 John 1:2

Let's just get right to it.

I've often viewed my body as non-essential.  My flesh is what I'm fighting--every carnal urge, even sometimes natural urges.  If I'm not fighting it, I'm ignoring it, trying to "fix my eyes on things above".  And it's always made perfect sense, my spirit lasts forever, my body is mortal and perishable.  It will be dust soon, worm food.

Jesus even seemed to diminish the value of the body at times when he spoke.

"Don't be afraid of those who can kill the body.  Be afraid of those who can kill the body and the soul." - Jesus

"The flesh counts for nothing." - Jesus

Heck, I remember a verse from when I was younger that about put a nail in this argumentative coffin.  There isn't another verse needed if you're trying to defend the claim that the physical is futile and that exercise is superfluous.  I remember memorizing this one in the King James Version, so if you'll humor me, I'll quote it word for word from the good ole' 1611 Version...

"For bodily exercise profiteth little: godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." - Timothy 4:8

Stick a fork in it!  Cancel your membership at the gym.  Let your body go.  Forget the fat content.  Stop counting calories.  Who cares about your cardio?  Your vitals, your muscles, your bones, your blood pressure.  Sidebar conversations.  Peripheral distractions.  If it's "bodily" it's temporary, if it's "exercise" it has little profit, marginal meaning.  Everlasting life doesn't care about your body...you're leaving it behind to rot on this god-forsaken planet.

Obviously I'm overstating a point, but it doesn't take much to actually believe your body is not only peripheral, but a problem, the problem.

So no matter how it's going with your body, what really matters is what's happening with your soul.  We even sing this to ourselves and to each other in church to remind ourselves of this fact.

It is well, it is well with my soul. (can you hear the music to this venerable hymn?)

I'm not here to argue this fact.  I'm not here to diminish the supremecy of the spirit world and the spiritual life.  Who in their right mind would argue against the fact that "gaining the whole world and losing your soul" is a good tradeoff?  I'm with Jesus...the soul is of utmost importance and in comparison to the body it has immeasurable, insurpassable value.

But the verse at the beginning of this entry means something.  You don't have to read into it to hear the authors heart for the body.  And he's not just giving value to the body, he is giving value to a healthy body.

First, he hopes "all is well", not just the soul.  Not just the church.  Not just the family.  Not just the job.  Not just the bank account.  He seems to be encouraging holistic wellness across the spectrum.  If a person isn't well economically, but they are doing well spiritually; that is, they are all set as it relates to eternity, but they are struggling in the here and now....that matters, all isn't well.

Let me put it another way, if they are saved but are experiencing nightmares, there should be an ongoing conversation about the goings on of their psyche or the where abouts of their inner dialogue.  If they are born again, but are in rehab again for mental illness, it's not case closed.  It's actaully important to ask more questions about the things that are attacking their mind no matter how solid their eternal security may be.  You get what I'm gettin' at.

The aforementioned verse also goes on to promote a healthy body.  The author even uses the word "as" to compare or parallel the material and immaterial.  This is his HOPE.  I hope that you're "as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit."  Again, there isn't a need to read between the lines here.  The healthy body matters.  It means something in life.  I actually think when we create a great chasm between the body and soul, we do great harm to both.  The soul needs a healthy body as much as the body is dying for a healhty soul.  They are interconnected and interwoven, inextricably so.

I have not been treating my body with much respect, certainly little regard over the past 20 years.  I have been living out the theology/ideology that physical exercise "profiteth little" or as it says in another translation "has little value".  That ethos has unknowingly crippled the health of my soul since my body is the the vehicle of my soul, it houses my soul.  It is useless to have a great engine in your car if the body is falling apart, the engine needs the frame.  It is no good having a great home sitting on a crumbling foundation...they both matter.  Infrastructure and superstructure must both be "healthy" and "whole".

For roughly 8 weeks I have faithfully exercised.  I have taken care of my body.  I have worked out and cared about my physical being.  The belief is that God made my body and that when it is taken care of, it fuels important other areas of my life.  My body has been screaming, "Help me help you!" and I've been saying, "I'm too busy doing eternal things to waste time on you."  I don't need to tell you how detrimental this lifestyle has been and how much needless weight I've carried due to my unfounded, ungrounded negligence.

If I could put this verse in my own words from 3 John 1:2 it would go something like this:

"Hey friend, I care about all areas of your life, the whole of your well-being.  I hope there is wellness inside and out, that you're taking good care of your physical life in the same way you are caring deeply about your spiritual life."

Only a friend would care that much.

"How are you really doing?"  

Have you ever had someone ask you that question to which you thoughtlessly answer, "Good" only to have them pause, look you deep in the eye and say, "You don't look good.  Are you sure everything is alright?"  It can be offensive to hear people say, "You look tired.  Are you getting good sleep?"  "You seem down.  Have you had any recreation lately?  When was the last time you took a vacation?"  "You're not yourself.  Are you taking care of yourself?  Are you eating healthy; are you eating at all?"

When Elijah was afraid, isolated, depressed, and suicidal under the broom tree saying to God, "I've had enough.  I want to die", God said one thing and cared for three things.  It's telling.  The only thing he says initially is, "The journey has been too much for you."  Instead of a pep talk, he actaully takes Elijah's statement "I've had enough" and essentiallys says, "You've actaully had too much."  That's all he says and then he does three things for/with him as he cares for him...

First, he tells him to sleep.  And when he gets up and eats, he goes back to sleep.

Second, he feeds him.  After getting good sleep, it's important that he eats to fuel his body.

Third, he takes him on a walk.  Once he recoups some rest, and gets strengthened with food, he takes him out for some exercise.

He doesn't talk to him....he just establishes these three essential patterns for a healthy body.  Your mind and soul will eat you alive if you're not sleeping well, eating well, or exercising well.  It's just how God made us.  Our biological and spiritual are conjoined, bound together whether we like it or not.

As I've cared for my body, I'm amazed at how sharp my mind has become.  As I've worked out my body and become healthy, to my shock that immortal part of me has perked up and gained good altitude, and thus, regained good attitude.  My soul is carried by my body here and there, and the self-respect and self-esteem that create a healthy view of life translate into soul-food, nourishing my perspectives on eternal things, kingdom-critical perspectives that count both now and for the long haul.  The body and soul are in the same yoke for once, pulling together, turning ground...taking ground.  They are encouraging each other for a change, instead of one succeeding at the expense of the other.  They aren't at war with each other, body vs. spirit.  They are allies again, when one wins they both win.

It's a good thing to be "as healthy in body as I am strong in spirit".  I hope I can remember this when life once again seems to leave me no choice but to choose between one or the other for survival.  It's convincing in the moment of tension, but it's a lie.  How the Enemy loves to tear asunder mind, body and spirit when the Lover of our soul asks us to love him with all three (plural) as the Great Commandment (singular).  The three things are actaully mysteriously one thing.  You can't pull them apart and love God as He's asked to be loved.

Thanks for showing me this recently, God.


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