Christian Ethics Today



Wellness Then and Now

  Volume 5.2   Issue 21   Pub Year 1999
Author David Moncrief Jordan
Type Article

Wellness Then and Now
By David Moncrief Jordan

[Dr. David Moncrief Jordan is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rockingham, North Carolina.]

It is a long walk home. The road is dusty and the sun is hot. But more important matters. He hears the musical call of birds gliding overhead and the captivating rhythm of his sandals flapping against callused feet. The land around his pathway glows with a refreshing emerald green. Life-giving winter rains have resurrected a land parched from long days of intense Middle-eastern heat.

Jesus doesn't think of this as exercise, these long walks he makes over the countryside. This is simply the lifestyle of his time and place. I imagine Jesus tending a garden, too, digging his hands into the rich dirt of the Galilee soil. I see him covered in sawdust from a newly crafted table created for a family down the street. There would have been hours of study and prayer, I'm sure, but not at the expense of physical labor and recreation. Surely he joined neighborhood friends in competitive games of soccer (or the ancient equivalent). I can see him covered in sweat, physically exhausted, arm around a buddy from the other team, smiling with a word of encouragement, and a slap on the back: "Good game. Thanks for playing!"

Today, we would call this a "healthy lifestyle": physical labor, aerobic exercise, worship, meditation, study, deep appreciation of beauty, consistent interaction with nature, and appropriate recreation with friendly competition. Jesus also would have enjoyed a high--fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish with very little red meat and virtually no fat or cholesterol.

This is not some far-fetched new age fad for losing weight. This is the way Jesus would have lived. In fact, this is the lifestyle the Bible assumes people of the Covenant like ourselves would be living. But times have changed.

Our remarkable labor saving devices and the plentiful resources of the modern world avail us with far more choices of food, how we spend our time, and modes of transportation than at any other point in history. This array of possibilities is a real gift unless we allow ourselves to be seduced by the avoidance of exercise, the lack of interaction with God's world, and the consumption of less-than-healthy foods.

There is an intimate connection between how we feel physically and how we feel emotionally and spiritually. How we eat, exercise, work, and play has a significant bearing upon how and even if we pray and discipline our spiritual selves. And certainly our physical wellbeing, or lack of it, profoundly affects our outlook on life and the way we treat one another.

The Bible reminds us consistently that these all go together: "Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; love your neighbor as you love yourself" (Matthew 22:37-40). It takes a whole person utilizing every aspect of ourselves truly to enjoy the kind of existence the Bible advocates and that our Lord expects. Therefore, may our call to follow Christ include also attentiveness to lifestyle, attention to wellness and intentional discipline in every aspect of our walk with God.

Sigmund Freud once called religion an "illusion." Religion, he said, simply fosters an inability to address the actual problems of background and personality development that contribute to psychological difficulties. And in a sense, he was right. His culture during the 19th century in Vienna, Austria was steeped in a religion that was pessimistic, cavalier, apathetic, and self-centered. Most of his Austrian clients considered themselves to be religious. They, for the most part, were also wealthy, aristocratic, and generally quite unhappy with their lives (which is why they sought Dr. Freud's services in the first place).

So Freud's appraisal of the religion he encountered each day was largely accurate. The faith most of his clients exhibited was an "illusion," a sad and an insufficient coping device derived more from culture and manipulation than from Biblical truth and divine inspiration. This is unhealthy religion.

Unhealthy religion is not necessarily a foreign concept in our own society, either. A casual scan of the religious programming on television and radio stations reveals a wide variety of strange, unsound, and often unchristian religious systems competing for our spiritual and financial devotion.

Yet, just as Freud's perspective on 19th century Austrian religion fails to provide an accurate picture of healthy faith, neither does channel surfing through our own cultural messages today. For all the current voices condemning the rising interest in spiritual matters and who continue to call faith an illusion, let us be more specific about the Biblical faith that God intends for us all.

There is a plethora of evidence now which suggests, in fact, that faith can be miraculously healthful. Those who have a sincere belief in a loving God and who attend church regularly literally live better, longer, and more optimistically.

This is not an illusion. A number of well-respected studies have demonstrated that active involvement in a community of faith fulfills a deep-seated need in us all for love and companionship. The belief in a good and gracious God who loves us and cares for us, while uplifting spiritually, is also calming emotionally and energizing physically. Spiritual growth, Bible study, and the specific charge to live a better, more loving life is stimulating mentally, comforting emotionally, and challenging spiritually.

So, the combination of a healthier lifestyle as exemplified by Jesus, and a genuine, hopeful faith in God as taught by Jesus, make for a life that I is truly exciting, remarkably fulfilling, and extremely healthy.

So you want to live a better, longer, and happier life? Go to church. Love God. Care deeply for those around you. Take care of yourself And have faith in God.

  Cite This Page:
Jordan, David Moncrief.
"Wellness Then and Now" ChristianEthicsToday.
The Christian Ethics Today Foundation. April 1999 (Issue 21 Page 27)