How Every Body Matters Helps Make Us Better, Healthier Christians Book Review

Length: 5 pages Sources: 1 Subject: Mythology - Religion Type: Book Review Paper: #2657115 Related Topics: Mind Body Connection, Selfishness, Theological Reflection, Yoga
Excerpt from Book Review :

¶ … Gary Thomas shows how taking care of the body can assist in developing the spiritual strength and characteristics that Christians require for a strong relationship with God. The book consists of 15 chapters and an epilogue. Throughout, Thomas uses different individuals as examples of how improving one's body is a first step towards a more healthy spiritual life. For example, Thomas uses the example of the obese preacher, who realizes his unhealthy body weight is actually turning people off from the message of God. He also uses the example of the woman suffering from a terrible divorce who begins to develop her spiritual strength by training for a marathon. In every example, there is a direct relationship between how individuals treat their bodies and how they treat their spiritual life. What Thomas suggests is that the spiritual life needs to be worked out just as the body does, and that by working out the body, we can give ourselves the "training" and ability to work out the spirit as well.

There are numerous examples of how this works in Thomas's book. For instance, in the first chapter, Thomas states that grace "motivates and empowers" effort.[footnoteRef:1] It is God's love that helps to develop, so to speak, the physical manner in which we address our lives. Thomas makes this evident in chapter 2 when he defines the whole man as consisting of "soul and body, mind and heart."[footnoteRef:2] Thomas also draws the connection between bodily and spiritual health and unselfishness. If sloth is the practice of selfishness, then unhealthiness is selfish, whereas "being healthy is being loving."[footnoteRef:3] [1: Gary Thomas, Every Body Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 24.] [2: Gary Thomas, Every Body Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 32.] [3: Gary Thomas, Every Body Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 49.]

Thomas also explores some of the traps that we fall prey to in our journey towards bodily and spiritual health -- such as the tricks that advertisers use to lure us to their unhealthy food products. As for the spiritual tricks that the devil uses, Thomas shows how obesity is related to sloth and gluttony, two of the seven deadly sins that lead one away from God. Thus, Thomas does not focus solely on the physical side of getting fit, but also on the spiritual side as well. He shows how sloth can actually lead to perdition and how the manifestation of this notion is evident in the obesity which weighs down one's slothful body like chains. Physical workout may be like suffering because it is indeed hard work, but Thomas says there is no avoiding this if one wants to be with God in the end, because getting to God takes effort and work. Thomas underlines this point by stating that "those who avoid suffering by sinning, sin themselves into worse suffering," such as separation from God.[footnoteRef:4] The final point that Tomas makes is that it is the lot of the Christian to run to God because in Him is our salvation, thus one should take up the race as St. Paul says. [4: Gary Thomas, Every Body Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 120.]

My Reflection

Just as Jesus Christ fasted in the desert in preparation for his Passion, Thomas shows that preparing for a struggle towards God depends upon a disciplining of the body. Christ's struggle was a spiritual one, but He knew that if his body, which is like the frame of the spirit, was not strong, then his spirit would not hold up under the stress and ordeal of what was about to happen. Christ's example is the best example of why the body matters, but Thomas gives numerous contemporary examples that illustrate the same idea. The idea is an important one because the spiritual life is a serious thing that requires attention and brain is the toughest muscle in the body and to make it fit demands a high degree of concentration and power.

But by transforming our bodies into healthy vessels through which we can elevate our minds and hearts to God, God can fill us with His love and grace, which can support our mind muscle in our spiritual journey upwards to God. The physical training of the body is like prep work for the spiritual training that takes place in our mind. It helps us to eliminate distractions and even to atone for sins, as Mark shows in chapter one: "This defines the whole theological underpinning for why I do endurance events. I am weak; I am broken; my sins are a lack of discipline and gluttony, among others. And riding my bike is a physical way to address what I lack and God provides through his power."[footnoteRef:5] This theological note is helpful in reminding us that what should drive our workout is not just a vain attempt to make the body more powerful or pleasing to admirers, but rather that God is the ultimate end and that we are toning our bodies so as to be better prepared to embark on the spiritual journey to Him. That we can link physical exercise to spiritual cleansing is an awesome idea and one that corresponds to the suffering that Our Lord endured for us in His Passion and death on the cross. [5: Gary Thomas, Every Body Matters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 24.]

My Response

My response to Thomas's book is that it makes a lot of good sense and I am happy to have come into contact with it. It reinforces the notion of the whole man, who neither neglects the spiritual for the physical nor the physical for the spiritual. Thomas emphasizes the union of body and soul and shows that we must consider both in this life and not just ignore one or the other because both have an impact on one another. We are neither wholly spiritually beings (like angels) nor wholly bestial beings (like animals) but are mysteriously a combination of both. The Christian has a responsibility to be like Christ, and Christ showed that fasting and doing penance (suffering for sins) is necessary as we make our to the Father. This suffering, Thomas shows, can be undertaken in the form of exercise that makes our body fit, because by disciplining our body, we are also committing to a life of purgation, purging out bodies of toxicities and taking the step towards purging our souls of the vices that weigh it down and drive out God in our lives. Thus, I want to be a healthier, fitter person after reading Thomas's book and I see how and why it can help in making my relationship with God better and stronger.

The best response, of course, is one that is put into practice rather than merely into words. So it is necessary, in order to really respond to this book, to implement a strategy or program of steps that will encourage a healthier, more active lifestyle that will help me to battle sloth and gluttony and put me on a more direct route to God. This response is elaborated in the next section.

My Application

My application of the ideas that I have learned from Thomas's book can be stated thus: First, it is important to develop a routine of exercise of some form or another; it does not matter what just so long as it is an activity that causes me to leave my comfort zone and put in a little bit of work that will make me healthier. In order to prepare myself for this activity, I can reflect on my sins and how I need to "work them off," so to speak, so as to be closer to God. Because I do not already have a program of exercise, I can start off simply with a walk every morning or afternoon and the lifting of some weights or the doing of push-ups. Another idea would be to take some form fitness class, such as Tai Chi or hot yoga, where the body is developed by doing various poses that require concentration and discipline.

The second step to take is to begin an accompanying program of prayer. It is a good idea to unite the physical with the spiritual so why not begin to develop my prayer life at the same time that I am developing a better, healthier lifestyle?

Third, half the battle is simply eating right, as Thomas points out. If all we eat is junk food, then it does not matter how much we work out because we are continuing to corrupt our bodies with "lazy" food that undermines our health-conscious approach. Thus, it is important to develop a program for better eating as well. A…

Sources Used in Documents:

Bibliography

Thomas, Gary. Every Body Matters. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.


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