Running for Your Life?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to world events and daily life.

People throughout the world believe that physical exercise is mandatory for good health. The media report frequently on the need for regular exercise.

Certainly it does not make sense to be a "couch potato." But is it really necessary for us to run for our lives? According to an explanation of God and His power known as Christian Science, the answer is that it is not. Two books, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, indicate that well-being is not dependent on physical conditioning. For example, the Bible states in First Timothy, "Bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (4:8). Godliness is a thoughtful observance of the laws of God, and such observance will result in a healthful mental state. It is generally accepted today that our physical well-being is linked to our mental well-being. Science and Health, which explains Mrs. Eddy's discovery of God's laws, takes this point one step further: "The scientific government of the body must be attained through the divine Mind. It is impossible to gain control over the body in any other way" (p. 167). There is no indication here that control is gained by physical exercise.

Christian Science, based on the life of Christ Jesus, teaches that all men and women are ideas of this divine Mind, God. As such, they are maintained at the standpoint of perfection by their creator. This concept may seem incongruous, because we find ourselves in human form while declaring that true identity is not physical but spiritual. The incongruity begins to fade, however, as we gain a growing recognition that God is omnipotent. To acknowledge that you are indeed the image and likeness of God is to accept that the human body is but a substratum of thought, and not the creation of God. Our bodies reflect our thoughts. We have our true being in God, not in flesh. This can be proved through reason and through reliance on the fact that knowing God overcomes the limits of materiality. By holding in consciousness an understanding of spiritual existence, we can master bodily limitation. Students of Christian Science consider such thinking as more than "mind over matter"; it is recognition of the truth of existence.

Now, all of this is not to say that we cannot or should not participate in -- and enjoy -- tennis, golf, swimming, jogging, or any physical recreation. Far from it! The quotation from First Timothy does not say that you must not exercise, only that there is little profit in it as compared with gaining a spiritual state of thought in whatever you do.

Since we each are the reflection of God's creative power and intelligence, our true identity is as intact as that of our Maker. God's creation does not deteriorate, or even require cultivation or manipulation, any more than God does. By yielding to this truth we can exercise a mental might that allows us to look at the physical body objectively and say, with assurance, "The body is mine, but it is not me." Knowing that the man of God's creating is not composed of anatomical parts in need of conditioning frees us from the sense of physical limitation. Then we can see the truth of Isaiah's words: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (40:31).

Perhaps you are saying that you really enjoy jogging, or a fast game of handball or tennis. You are not alone. The point is that one's motive for a particular physical activity should be closely examined and kept in proper perspective. The exercise we take part in should be for our recreation, and especially for an opportunity to express God, in exhibiting the qualities of poise, accuracy, strength, endurance, and so forth. In this way, we establish a measure of dominion over material conditions. When we express God in good qualities that are like Him, activity is not then an attempt merely to get in shape, but rather an active celebration of the spiritual fact that God created us perfect.

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