Love the Lord your God with all your strength concludes the four ways we are told to love God and our neighbor. Strength does include the three means of loving already discussed. One will use the full strength of heart, soul and mind, but more. The more that has not yet been included is the full strength of our body.
Sometimes we don’t consider our body when talking about spiritual things. This comes from the Greek influence on Christianity rather than the Jewish influence. The Greeks under the influence of Plato thought of the body as an interference with spiritual growth. This anti-body attitude shows up in other spiritual movements so that spiritual disciplines in many traditions often call for chastity and ascetic disciplines designed to restrict bodily desires. Paul often expresses this bias in his writing.
The Christian story revealed in the Gospels does not reveal this prejudice, but often talks about how we live our lives in the body. Think of the contrast Jesus makes between himself and John the Baptist as an example. The fact that our salvation is revealed in a bodily resurrection says that the body is an important part of our spiritual life and thus essential to how we love God. Jesus
heals people’s bodies and encourage us to care about people in the real conditions of physical life.
In order to transform the world we act in the world of the body. To serve God with the fullness of our heart, soul and mind means we need, to the best of our ability, to work on keeping our bodies healthy and strong. Physical exercise thus becomes a part of our spiritual discipline. We can help others more if we are healthy and strong.
To conclude this contemplation on scripture’s command on how we are to love God and ourn eighbor, I suggest that we are called to exercise all four areas of our lives in order to do our work
for God. If we are to remain strong in all four areas, we are called to exercise body, heart, soul and mind as suggested in these pastoral reflections.
While many people exercise none of these faculties of their lives, even the most disciplined struggle to do all. Traditionally people seem to be able to do two or maybe three of these but not
all four. Stereotypically those who stay physically fit are not mentally fit and vice versa. Even without stereotypes it is difficult to do all four. Where is the time for physical fitness, intellectual development, spiritual practices and directed introspection with accountability?
Wesley’s covenant groups worked on prayer, group accountability, social responsibility and scriptural study, but did little with physical fitness; although he did write about good health with some intensity. The challenge for myself as well as you who read this article is: to create covenant groups that would support discipleship growth through accountable physical fitness, emotional fitness, spiritual fitness, and mental fitness — with the final intent to transform the world in the process of transforming one’s self.
Click here to read of the May Newsletter!