Have you ever seen this logo?
If you’ve lived in the Richmond area for several years or more, you might remember that sign on a storefront in Short Pump Town Center. This company, called ‘Not of This World,’ existed in that mall for several years before they suddenly vanished. I remember seeing all kinds of people with their clothing line on, and I still see this logo on bumpers and rear windshields from time to time. It kind of screams “I’m a cool Christian…I love Jesus, but I also have tattoos.” Mardel, who acquired the brand, says on their website, “Consider it to be evangelism on the move with each piece boldly proclaiming the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.”
The title suggests that we (Christians) live IN this world, but not OF it—that we’re normal, productive citizens, but that we are somehow different, because of our belief in a Savior, Jesus Christ. There are many Bible verses that support this sentiment—here are just a couple:
- John 17:14-16 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.
- 1 John 2:15-17 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.
If you’re still trying to figure out all of this God and church stuff, don’t let this stifle you—you’re on the journey and that’s the most important part! If you’ve been a Christian for a little while though, I think we can all agree with what these verses are saying. That is, that ideally we want to be different than the world in some key ways, because we want to be examples of the kind of life that’s available to others AND because we believe our lives (whether it’s now, down the road, and/or sometime in eternity) will somehow be more full and complete by making Godly decisions.
I’ve heard/seen lots of ways people try to live differently because of their faith:
- Adding spiritual practices like regular Bible reading, prayer, and attending church
- Having a spirit of generosity with their resources
- Volunteering and serving others
- Giving up (or cutting back) drinking alcohol
- Practicing abstinence from sex outside of marriage
- Removing foul language from their vocabulary
You can probably think of more. I believe there’s an important area of our lives we should add to this list though; one that seems to be forbidden from most Christian conversation.
That area is our physical health.
In a way, I get it. I grew up with some of the most impressive after-church luncheons imaginable, and I remember them fondly. “Breaking bread” in fellowship is a powerful practice to build and sustain relationships in your community. And, after all, we don’t hear about anyone in the Bible waking up at 5am to hit the gym or go on a 5 mile run.
It’s also hard to ignore the sensitivity of a conversation that could easily be construed as body-shaming. So, let’s be clear: Our value is intrinsic and is unaffected by our size, shape, appearance, or anything like that. We are dearly loved by our Father and should be dearly loved by one another, regardless of any of that.
So, hear me out. I’d simply like to make a case for why we should care more about physical health as Christians, and do it in a way that doesn’t ask anyone to cut out luncheons and sign up for gym memberships (unless they want to).
Remember, living our fullest lives possible is the goal here. Being “not of this world.” In order to do that, we have to distinguish what the world offers vs. what we were created for.
The world offers us an endless supply of ultra-processed food. In fact, the average grocery store is packed with 70% processed food (as opposed to fresh foods). These are food products that often lack essential nutrients, are highly inflammatory to our bodies and minds, and are scientifically engineered to make us crave more without ever truly feeling full or satiated. These foods offer to save us time and fulfill our desires, but in the long run may be costing us time and leaving us wanting.
We were created to sustain ourselves with fresh foods like meat, fruits/vegetables, nuts/seeds, etc. These foods pack a punch of nutrients that our bodies need. When we don’t give those nutrients to our bodies, we not only miss out on important fuel, but we keep eating more of the inferior stuff because we’re never truly fulfilled.
And guess what…
When you’re not fueling your body the way it was created, you’re not living your fullest life possible.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The world offers us all kinds of tasty beverages. So much so that we often forget the most important beverage—one that doesn’t need anyone to market and sell it, because it’s the OG (original). WATER!
Studies have shown that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. That’s a huge problem considering 3/5 of the human body is water. Dehydration can cause foggy memory, irritability, digestive problems, slowing of the metabolism, and is a common risk factor for kidney stones. Maybe one day I’ll give you my anti-soda talk, but for now, can we all just agree to drink more water?
I know someone out there is thinking, “Isn’t Gatorade even better for hydration?” So let me put that to bed by directing you back to our processed foods talk above—Gatorade has too much sugar and other stuff you probably can’t pronounce in there. Just go for the water to ensure the fullest life possible! After all, the Bible seems to use water a lot to symbolize faith, salvation, and provision.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3)
The world offers us lethargy. There are a lot of potential distractions from physical activity. Too much Netflix and Disney+—too much Facebook and Instagram—too much Xbox and Playstation—even too much desk work. Once again, many of these distractions are specifically engineered toward keeping us glued, with quick, exciting dopamine hits that quickly fade, so we’re ready to come back for more. Many of us get so “busy” in our little worlds that we feel like we don’t have time for a 20 minute walk or playing outside with our kids.
Due to our distractions, we miss out on physical activity, meaningful time with friends and family, and (the all too underrated) contact with fresh air, sunlight, and nature. And yes, all of those things affect your physical health.
Physical activity improves the health and function of your muscles, bones, and cardiovascular system, while minimizing your risk for a long ongoing list of physical and mental health issues. That sounds like living our fullest lives possible.
While we don’t get much direction from the Bible to exercise, it’s safe to say that our favorite Bible characters were a lot more physically active than most people these days, just by necessity. Walking, rowing, climbing, fetching, delivering, racing, farming… all examples of physical activity that we see in the Bible. In the current day, we have transportation, tools, and technology that make life a lot less strenuous for us. So living the fullest life possible may require many of us to find intentional ways of getting in some movement and activity.
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
The world offers us busyness and lack of sleep. Is it just me or is being an over-worker rewarded a little too much these days? Admittedly, when people ask me how things are going, my response often includes the word “busy.” I work in ministry and real estate, so that’s never a lie. They probably also assume I don’t sleep much because I have four young kids and another on the way. “I don’t know how you do it,” they might say. While it’s an honor to sit on that throne of admiration, the truth is, I think the people who are living the fullest lives are those who are finding ways to work well and rest well.
Our bodies and minds have their biggest opportunity for rest and healing at night. Seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended for most adults and at least 1/3 of our population isn’t achieving it. Insufficient sleep is linked to depression, chronic pain, obesity, and a plethora of other potential issues. This is in addition to the obvious hit, which is that the quality of your life, your work, your interactions, etc. suffer when you’re exhausted and under-rested.
What if we could schedule and block out our lives in such a way that provides some periods of rest throughout the day and especially at night? Sounds like that could help us live not of this world.
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Psalm 127:2)
It’s easy to minimize the effect of one or two of these areas on our overall health, and this isn’t a comprehensive list, so we could certainly add to the list or narrow in on specifics of each one. When you consider what the world offers us though, it’s easy to see that the overwhelming majority of people struggle to do their best in all of these areas—not just one or two.
When you compile the effects of all these areas, you start to see a more clear picture of how we’re not living our best lives possible when we make our physical health an afterthought. Our relationships, attitudes, mental health, mobility, longevity, and overall capacity to fully live out our callings are all affected by how well we do in this one area of our journey.
So let me encourage you—not necessarily to go grab another diet book or app or sign up for a marathon—and not to upheave your whole life at once; rather, to increase your care for your own health and for the one vessel you were given to navigate this world.
Increase whole/fresh foods and decrease processed options.
Be more intentional about getting physical activity, adding something simple, but impactful to your routine a few days a week or so.
Cut down on sweetened (and artificially sweetened) beverages and drink more water.
Give yourself a cutoff in the evening, where you stop eating, dim the lights, and calm your body and mind, so you can rest and sleep well.
Perhaps you can try just one small change at a time until you’ve tackled it. Then you can add another and another. Together, let’s commit to loving ourselves, so we can better love others, and ultimately show our communities what it looks like to be “not of this world.”