Paul writes in 4:7-8, in response the supposed godliness of restrictive diets and presumably other physical disciplines:
"....Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."
In today's Boston Globe appears a story that the Boston Red Sox starting pitchers, on non-start days, would sit in the clubhouse drinking beer, eating fried chicken, and playing video games. Paying little heed to their calling as athletes or their responsibilities to their teammates and the Great Cloud of Witnesses that is Red Sox Nation, they "let themselves go". Two of them, John Lester and Josh Beckett, were looking pretty chunky towards the end of the season, and perhaps not coincidentally they both pitched lousy and the Red Sox were beaten out of the playoffs on the next to last day of the season.
A year ago in July I wrote Diane 18 reasons why I should lose weight. I refer back to that list today because it seems that for the Christian the "why" of physical training is at least as important as the "how." The Hebrew mindset, in many ways very much "of this world" with its appreciation for nature and community, seems unconcerned with physical appearance and training. Can you imagine the Greeks not even bothering to describe the physical appearance of its central man-god figure? Their myths are all about buff Apollo and winged Mercury and femme fatale Athena and that randy old goat of many disguises, Zeus. But the Hebrews, with a few exceptions (Song of Solomon notable among them) don't much dwell on it. So in terms of cultural patterns, we are left with zilch from the Hebrews, and TMI from the Greeks.
I ramble. What I'm trying to say is that godliness is the guide for a biblical view of physical conditioning. For example: I told Diane I know am called to work hard to provide for my family and to also work hard in the Lord's vineyards. Since doing so requires staying healthy and energetic, I must eat and exercise well. Sickness may come, but shame on me if I bring it on myself. It's all about being a faithful maintenance worker of God's temple.
A couple years ago I was so tired and heavy that, like Beckett and Lester, I just faded in the homestretch of the Legislative Session. At a time when I needed gas in my tank, I was running on E. I noticed that other men my age but in better shape seemed to move more quickly and with more energy. They were equal to the task. And of course as I head into my mid-fifties (will be 54 next Monday!) it is important to do my part to reduce the likelihood of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, back pain, arthritis, and cancer.
Taking care of myself is an act of love for my kids. God bless them they all have made it clear that they want me around for a very, very long time. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain, but being convinced that there is fruitful labor for me, I resolve to stay and live and love with them, and the grandkids when they come, too.
And for me to be fat is just a lousy, lousy witness. It proclaims to the world, "Jesus has no real control over my appetites, over the warp and woof of my daily life. My addiction is more powerful than He is."
I do not make these statements for anyone else. They are about me, my motives, my life. And because they are mine, they are truly motivating as I eat and exercise with a positive goal in mind.