Body(building) of Christ

off the couch

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 99; 147:1-11, Isaiah 4:2-6, Ephesians 4:1-16, Matthew 8:28-34


One of Paul’s favorite descriptions of the Church is a body with Christ at its head. In his letter to the Ephesians, he explains how all the gifts of the community work together, just as all the parts of the body work together. He also says the Body of Christ needs to grow into maturity and unity. This growth requires exercise.

Why do we exercise our bodies? Is it just to look good, or is it to keep ourselves fit to accomplish more important tasks? Smart bodybuilders never sacrifice fitness for appearance. Lazy bodybuilders – and churches – do. It’s nice to show off our muscles – be they big biceps or beautiful buildings – but we should never prize them above the overall health of the body. Like healthy bodybuilders, healthy churches achieve results through hard work and good choices; shortcuts result in unsustainable outcomes and dangerous consequences. A body that serves no purpose but to promote itself is not a healthy one.

Bodybuilders are acutely aware of proper proportion. It is easy to focus efforts on areas that respond quickly, don’t tire us, or attract attention. Doing so exclusively, however, leaves key areas neglected. The boring parts are just as important. A church can have a dynamic and popular worship experience, but if it sucks away the energy that could go into mission, the body is out of balance. For bodybuilders such imbalance doesn’t just lose them tournaments, it increases their risk of injury. If the efforts of our Christian body are imbalanced, in the long run we hurt ourselves.

Prevention is the best way to manage injury and illness, but even the most diligent of us may get sick. When that happens, the worst thing to do is ignore it. Far too many people avoid the doctor because of embarrassment or fear. The body of Christ has the same tendencies. We often choose to protect our reputation rather than admit to real problems. Such behavior can be fatal. But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s be sure to take care of the Body in all the right ways!

Comfort: Flex the spiritual muscle you’ve been given – it’s important to the health of the body!

Challenge: Sometimes we think the things that are important to us need to be important to everyone. Try to understand what other people bring to the table that you can’t.What gifts might you undervalue or belittle?

Prayer: God of all good gifts, teach me to make choices to promote the health of the Body. Amen.

Discussion: What gifts – whether yours or someone else’s – might you undervalue or belittle?

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Spiritual Exercise

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 36; 147:12-20, Isaiah 65:1-12, 1 Timothy 4:1-16, Mark 12:13-27


In his first letter to Timothy, Paul encourages the disciples to “train yourselves in Godliness.” The Greek word translated as “train” is also the word for physical exercise. Like physical health, spiritual health is something we can improve with the proper nourishment and exercise.

A good doctor steers people away from fad diets and workout regimens that promise much and deliver little – or worse, cause damage. As our spiritual doctor, Paul warns the disciples to avoid fads like asceticism and celibacy which distract from true spiritual well-being. Instead he prescribes the basics of scripture, the teaching and conduct that will nourish them best. Today we need to be equally as careful to avoid trendy practices and beliefs that distract us from what Jesus really taught us. Just as there is no magic body wrap that will melt away love handles in your sleep, there is no substitute for regular spiritual discipline.

Spiritual and physical fitness have other similarities. Both result in incremental improvements over extended periods of time. As one-time (or even one-time-a-month) trips to the gym won’t turn your fat into muscle, neither will isolated or sporadic instances of prayer or other disciplines develop your spiritual muscles. Furthermore, exercise of either variety is performed to develop strength and endurance. No one who begins a marathon without first putting in the proper time to train will make it to the end, and no one who waits until a crisis to pray is likely to endure spiritually. We exercise not for what we need today, but for what we plan to accomplish in the future.

Finally, we must exercise for the right reasons. Wanting to look good for others is a bad motivator for working out, and rarely leads to sustained success. Practicing spiritual disciplines to impress others or to get God to love you more is also poor motivation. You can’t make anyone love you, and God already loves you as much as He ever will. Diet and physical exercise are about developing healthy relationships with our bodies, and spiritual exercise and discipline are about healthy relationships with our God.

Comfort: Spiritual health, like a marathon, begins with a single step.

Challenge: Find a spiritual discipline (prayer, meditation, scripture, etc.) that works for you, and practice it regularly.

Prayer: God of strength, I dedicate myself to developing spiritual health. Amen.

Discussion: How do you feel about exercise?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group , visit comfortandchallenge.tumblr.com, or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll  have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!