Fitness: A Christian approach

A Christian Science perspective: Becoming fit isn’t necessarily a physical task.

An old film clip showed hundreds of young people exercising in unison. The exercise routines looked unsophisticated and old-fashioned. Physical training today has become sophisticated, even for the occasional exerciser.

Despite all the effort, though, can we say that in general people today are any healthier as a result? Maybe we should be doing something more in our approach to fitness – something that restores our focus to man’s genuine spiritual selfhood.

What we need isn’t one more new type of physical exercise but a renewed devotion to the timeless standard of spirituality. Christ Jesus instructed his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, as Matthew 6:25 records: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”

The Master couldn’t be called an ascetic, nor did he impose special dietary laws on his students. His primary purpose was to acquaint people with God and His present kingdom. Knowing God brings harmony to human minds and bodies. This is the Christian approach to health and well-being. In Jesus’ words: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

It may seem hard to follow Jesus’ teaching, particularly if we are convinced that the body has to be forced into shape. But the whole purpose of seeing health as spiritually based is to allow ourselves an opportunity to understand the spiritual facts of life more fully – to understand that God is Spirit and that man is in reality His incorporeal expression.

When I was in college I was very overweight. I ran and did aerobic exercises. And I tried dieting, but without success. So I finally turned my attention to spiritual things. The health and strength that I had wanted to see in my body, I found I had to see in my life and thought. Health, agility, strength, are primarily spiritual qualities that originate in God. It didn’t happen all at once, but I gained control over my weight without giving thought to dieting and exercising and it has remained normal ever since. Spiritualized thought makes a harmonious body, because we are freed from fears and stress occasioned by feeling we are anything but the child of God. When we acknowledge that God alone is supreme, we are letting our thought, and therefore our body, be under the control of Spirit.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, spent many years observing the effect of thought on the body. What she discovered was not a form of hypnotism or mind control but the actual spiritual laws of being – the Christian laws of life. Her premise was the allness of God, divine Mind, and man as His likeness. For example, she says in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Mind, not matter, is causation. A material body only expresses a material and mortal mind. A mortal man possesses this body, and he makes it harmonious or discordant according to the images of thought impressed upon it. You embrace your body in your thought, and you should delineate upon it thoughts of health, not of sickness” (p. 208).

Regimens of exercise and diet may change from one decade to the next, but the Christian approach to wholeness and well-being is unchanged since Jesus’ time. It remains true that as we put more emphasis on learning of God’s creation, we will find health. Our contribution to our culture’s quest for permanent well-being can be substantial as we live what Jesus has taught.

Reprinted from the May 7, 1991, issue of The Christian Science Monitor.

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