There is Such a Thing as “Muscular Christianity”

new_logo_rgb_blogThink about this: Being fit spiritually needs to be approached with the same kind of resolve that one deploys in the context of being physically fit. Reason being is that I’m not going to triumph in life based on a fit appearance. It’s who I am and not how I look or perform that ultimately translates to true success.

Being fit is very, very cool. I don’t say that because I feel like I’ve arrived, rather I see it as something that goes beyond mere appearances and therefore worthy of more than a casual effort.

It is inevitably indicative of who you are: your sense of discipline, you capacity to meet certain challenges, your ability to do more than the bare minimum.

We live in a world of instant gratification and an acceptance of unhealthy excess. We don’t have a bowl of ice cream, we have a quart because it’s there and we tell ourselves we should be able to enjoy it. And I’m not just talking about a frozen dairy dessert; I’m talking about any kind of food or behavior that, while it may be fine in the context of healthy parameters, is positively lethal when engaged without boundaries that are Absolute.

People cringe when they hear that word because it represents a dynamic that is perceived as unnecessarily restrictive and no one likes to be told they shouldn’t or they can’t.

But behind that word is an approach that is as advantageous as it is common. No one who has been able to accomplish something extraordinary has been able to do so without denying themselves whatever might distract them from achieving their goal. Yet when we attempt to take that same concept and rightfully apply it to the whole of life, discipline and sacrifice are suddenly processed as antiquated and even judgmental because even the presence of limits can invoke feelings of resentment and indignation. Its one thing to be disciplined in the context of pursuing a goal, but it’s another when deployed as part of a holistic approach to our total existence.

But I would contend that it is absolutely crucial in order to truly live. Behind the imposing figure of a restriction is a freedom and a fulfillment that increases in its significance as the profound nature of its corresponding boundary is increased.

In other words, as I make the necessary sacrifices in time and diet, I enjoy the liberating benefits that go along with being fit. As I focus on studying to the exclusion of recreation in order to learn a particular discipline, I benefit from the new opportunities that a higher education can afford to me. And as I deny myself in order to better know, hear and obey Christ, I enjoy the benefits of a perspective that steers me in a direction characterized by Purpose, Peace and Power.

As I read through the Fitness resources that provide real life examples of discipline and knowledge in terms of one’s physique, I’m encouraged and all the more motivated where my personal pursuit of fitness is concerned. But I am simultaneously challenged in that I wonder whether or not that person with the chiseled abs is enjoying the same kind of muscular architecture when it comes to the rest of their identity.

Regardless of how healthy or strong you may be now, there is a limit to your physical existence.  And in addition to it being a transitory time frame, it is a period that incorporates your physical resources as well as your emotional and spiritual capacities. In other words, you don’t triumph in life armed with nothing more than a sizeable bicep or a toned waistline. It’s who you are and not just what you do or how you look that translates to true success.

So as I lead my fitness class and as I plot my diet and workout for each day, I want to be intentional about taking the same focus and drive and deploying them where my time with my King is concerned. Reason being it’s from those conversations that the core transformation that I long for and require is realized.  That’s the kind of life I want to live, that’s the kind of example I want to be and that’s the kind of influence I want to have.

Yes I want to be fit physically, but I also want to be fit spiritually. I’m not interested in being overwhelmed by a walk up the stairs, but I’m not interested in being anemic in my response to temptation either.  I’m not working out so I can avoid disease, although that may be a benefit. The prize I’m reaching for is far more positive in that I look and feel better. In a similar way, I don’t read my Bible only when I’m going through a tough time. Rather, I read it consistently so my life is richer and my disposition is characterized by a consistent optimism rather than spikes of cheerfulness.

There is such a thing as “Muscular Christianity.” While it may be called other things that have a more theological tone to them, the bottom line is that it’s an aggressive faith, it’s an approach that intentionally blurs the lines between the secular and the sacred. So while I’m laboring to reduce the size of my physical midsection, I’m being just as intentional about streamlining my spiritual midriff. The result being a more muscular presence of Christ in every area of my life  – not just the reflection I see in the mirror, but in the performance and in the character I personify in the marketplace and in the world.

Rock on!


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