9/07/2011

A Weighty Series, part 7

Last week I began a series on body image and weight issues; you can read part 1part 2part 3part 4, part 5, and part 6 to get caught up. Yesterday's post brought up tragic ways in which young women in our society literally kill themselves to get thin, while last week exposed culture's lie of an impossible standard which it insists all women must pursue.

Today at long last we'll begin looking at what the Bible has to say! Yay for truth, as it is truth that sets us free.

Our Bodies: Exercise
Created in the image of God? Yes.
The standard for anyone but herself? No.
Most women I know want to lose weight. They want to tone their arms, lose their love handles, lift their buttocks, get firmer thighs, banish their cellulite, have a bikini worthy stomach...basically, look like a Victoria's Secret model. Culture tells women that's what makes them beautiful, that beautiful women are desirable, and thus have worth. I remember watching Bend It Like Beckham and thinking that unless my stomach looked like Keira Knightly's I'd never be beautiful. Have you seen that movie? Thin 7 year olds rarely have that stomach! That's not to criticize Keira, but it is to say that her body is not a healthy measuring stick for me to judge mine by--nor is any other woman's body!

But what does the Bible say? I recently decided that Proverbs 31:17, which reads, "She dresses herself with strength, and makes her arms strong," meant that I had to work out really hard to get super toned arms. See, I was feeling like I needed to lose weight and have a better body so I was trying to find verses that I could use to convince my husband we need to spend money which we don't have to get a gym membership we can't afford.

Thankfully, Jason's wise and went to what the Bible and godly scholars before us have to say. After said studying we came to the conclusion that it's not about having a hot body (my application); rather, it's about having a healthy attitude toward hard work, and ensuring that my body is healthy enough to perform the tasks that are mine to complete each day. This can absolutely be done without looking like Jillian Michaels, despite how awesome she is.

Awesome workout, but not a
Bible mandate.
[click image for Amazon link]
This is echoed in the New Testament by Paul's words about beating his body into submission so that when he preached the Gospel he wouldn't afterwards be disqualified.  He refused to be enslaved to or dominated by anything  While Paul needed his body to be strong enough to make the long journeys required in his day to spread the Gospel, every single reference I found from Paul regarding the body was always in the context of not being enslaved to sexual immorality. Most notably, how often have you heard people say their body is a temple so they refuse to put _____ (sugar, alcohol, fat, high fructose corn syrup, vaccines, cigarette smoke, etc) in it? Paul wasn't talking about any of those things; he absolutely says that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and to glorify God in our body, but it's completely in the context of not committing sexual immorality. Here is the entire passage, from 1 Corinthians 6:12-20:
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral personosins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Again, Paul's not talking about exercise. That said, I pray that if I am taking too much liberty to apply the principle of health to Paul's words, regarding being physically fit enough to perform daily tasks without hindrance, ala Proverbs 31:17, then the Lord would correct me. Thus far I do have peace that not allowing our bodies to be enslaved does include sloth and gluttony, which have their own post later this week.

How God Humbled Me
I have to admit something here: as I tried to make there be Bible verses that say you must exercise, you must have some modicum of a trim physique, I just couldn't find them or make it happen. God helped me see that my own desire for a body that looks like the world's standard was driving me, not a desire to know God's word and his standard for me.

It's ok if your arms look
nothing like hers. No, really!
Again, we need to pursue health for the glory of the Lord, not just so we can get a "Pilates butt" that will make men stare and elicit jealousy in women. Don't get me wrong--I am NOT saying that you should be unhealthy to avoid those things. Unfortunately, there will always be lustful men and women who live by the sin of constant comparison. But God wants our bodies to be used as living sacrifices for his glory.  Again, the Proverbs 31 woman's strong arms are so she can do her daily living tasks but not necessarily so she'll feel good about her arms in a tank top during the summer.

It's always all about worshiping Jesus, and if his gift is to have arms the world would admire, great! But if not, sprint after him and refuse to rest until you have peace from Jesus about what his exercise routine for you looks like. I guarantee you that if you sprint toward Jesus with your heart then he'll help you work out what it looks like for your body to follow; if you think that you'll just pursue the body you want and the Jesus stuff will fall into place later then you are wrong and, quite frankly, you're throwing away precious time and you are not guaranteed tomorrow. Don't waste your life.

Tomorrow's post is one some of you will hope I will skip, but no can do: we're digging into what the Bible has to say about food. Keep with me, because I feel better with every post that goes up about how much freedom there is in Jesus with these issues and I pray that every woman will know these truths and take them to heart!


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