What is the purpose of health? Why does being healthy matter? What does it mean to be healthy?
These questions have been ones that have been rather irritating in my personal life for a number of years. Nearly every shred of advice to be found among the living in my life almost set the idea of “being healthy” as some sort of chief end or goal to be attained in this life. Like many things in our current age, this is a topic that the body of Christ rarely approaches with any sort of holistic thought. Thus, I am first going to formally recognize that I do not have the necessary background to write on this topic. However, I do have the background to postulate the general contours of how one might explore this topic from a historically Christian perspective.
There are three principle commands which I believe provide a framework for discussing health as an act of worship.
- Genesis 1:28 “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ ”
- Romans 12: 1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God which is your reasonable service.”
- Matthew 28: 19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Health is thus critically important in roughly three categories related to worship.
- The siring of Children is a blessing of the Lord and a command.
- The worship of the Lord as a living sacrifice blameless and holy.
- Being a disciple maker.
The siring of Children is a blessing of the Lord and a command.
On the first area of worship let me first say that while I am unmarried and without children myself I have been a child and I have been witness to marriage and divorce in equal measure in my life. I am continually searching the scriptures to understand the responsibilities I will one day face as a husband and father as the spiritual authority and example in my home and for my family.
One of the most enduring influences from my undergraduate education was my exposure to the traditional Roman Catholic teaching on contraception, marriage, and sex. It generally runs along the line that contraception interferes with the natural purpose of sex which is twofold, the furthering of the love union between a married male and female and the conception of children. I find that, despite my protestant roots, the position of the Roman Catholic Church is one I find agreement with. Thus, if our physical, emotional, or mental health has an impact upon the ability to conceive children and stimulate the love union created in marriage then our health is actively having an impact upon our obedience to God’s first universal command to all humanity through the Adamic covenant.
The worship of the Lord as a living sacrifice, blameless, and holy.
On the second point, let me address that we cannot be blameless before the Lord without the abiding presence of Christ as a sign of our salvation accomplished upon the Cross. But the call to be a living sacrifice and to be holy is something far more and fully encompassing than this, though such a thing is not possible without the presence of Christ. Perhaps one way of thinking about it is that one who lives as a sacrifice is one who acknowledges that they are not their own. The reality of our call to be living sacrifices means that we shouldn’t be doing anything for ourselves but rather that we should be doing everything for God. This is inclusive of our own health, our physical, mental, and emotional status is one that we care for not for our own glory but for His.
When you look at your life with regard to your physical, mental, and emotional health do you make sacrifices that positively benefit your health so that God is glorified when others look at your life? Do your habits draw you toward deeper intimacy with God?
Being a Disciple-maker
Finally, our health impacts our ability to fulfill the great commission. When we are unhealthy we are weakened in our ability to focus on others. In this regard health is similar to poverty, when one is in poverty one loses the capacity for certain kinds of long-term thought, likewise when one is unhealthy physically, emotionally, or mentally one loses the ability to really exit their own world and enter into someone else’s.
Again, I cannot speak with much if any authority on these topics, but I hope that this is at least a plausible framework for thinking about Health as something connected to the life of worship.