The Covert Gnostics among us…and how to repent

My son and I out for a little rock climbing in July

People who read blogs like this one are often people like me.  I like to live inside my head, so much so that there are days, (especially when I’m writing a book), that I never leave my chair.  On such days, when my imagination is running wild, and I’m using the building blocks of letters, words, phrases, to create something, I don’t even notice my inactivity.  “It’s good to think!” I tell myself, as I move from desk to kitchen, back to desk, back to kitchen, before finally, late at night, making the long trek to the bed.

That’s fine; for a day, maybe two.  But what happens when a rich mind leads to an impoverished body, because I’m forever too busy thinking to move, and challenge my lunges and muscles with a little exercise.  What happens when the life of the spirit becomes ALL of life, so that prayer, Bible reading, and all those church activities, most of which entail either sitting or eating, come to so occupy our days that our bodies begin to wither?  What is happens is that we declare, by our priorities, that stewardship of the body is unimportant. There’s a subset of highly spiritualized Christians whose specialty is defending the humanity of Jesus and battling the gnosticism of early church.  They rage against the dangers of Platonic dualism while never leaving their chair to get a little exercise, or enjoy a sunrise.  Seeing the dangers of the past with 20/20 clarity, they’re ironically blind to the gnostic dualism hiding in their own skin.

If you’re going to say that “The Word became flesh” this coming advent season, I have a suggestion:  honor your own flesh, by getting a little exercise.  I certainly understand the dangers of exercise obsession and addiction, but it’s probably not the main problem of people who read this blog, so let me suggest why you should move fast and lift heavy stuff, at least twice a week:

1. Your body is the means through which you express Christ. Your message is embodied, it comes through your smile, your handshake, your joy.  While it’s surely true that good people wracked with cancer are able to express timeless joy through broken bodies, I believe that privilege isn’t as available to those whose bodies are broken by benign neglect.  We’re image bearers, and the life of Christ will surely be seen more clearly if we’re taking care of ourselves through food, exercise, and sleep.

2. There’s joy and marvel in pushing one’s body to capacity. I use the workout of the day app on my phone as a starting point.  I’ll confess that I don’t do them every day, and that when I do them, I sometimes scale back from the full amount, downsizing it to my capabilities.  Still, my two or three times a week of doing these challenging workouts leaves me mentally and physically restored, and keeps me in enough shape to pull of the occasional rock climbing outing, and weekends of upcoming skiing.  No gym required, as this app uses only your body weight for your workout.

3. Exercise enhances sleep and relieves stress.

4. You are an ecological system. Body, Soul, and Spirit are, all three, interwoven.  Neglect one, and the other two will suffer.  Worship one, and you’ll ignore the other two.  No, this will never do.  All are needed, like three legs of a stool.

My favorite workout at home is simple:

4 sets of:

20 box jumps, from the landing of my attic stairs to my prayer shelf

10 pull ups on the climbing wall that is in my office

10 sit ups, sometimes more.

You don’t need a climbing wall…push-ups will do just fine.  You don’t need a prayer shelf.  Jumping from the floor to the 2nd or 3rd stair will do.  But you do, for the sake of your faith, need to move.

I’ve come to see that the barrier to caring for my body isn’t that I can’t afford a gym membership, or that I don’t have time.  It’s that I need to repent of my functional gnosticism, and fully embody the gospel.  See you….outside?


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  • Nate

    If message is embodied… and comes though your handshake, then you, sir, have a strong message!

  • Will

    Thank you Richard,
    I need this reminder, especially heading into the dark days of winter where the tendency toward inactivity and the lack of light start to affect me. Though these are not necessary spiritual problems in themselves, their effect on my well-being affects my mood, which in turn affects how I relate to others, even God and these latter things are spiritual!

    This post also reminds me of a professor who touched on the topic of stewardship in regards to eating: If given the choice between overeating so as not to waste food, and eating only what your body needs then tossing the rest, he holds that it is better to waste food to trash than the body. Though both will ultimately waste, the latter allows the earth to “recycle” the wasted food and protects our body from the physical damage of gluttony. The drive to overeat so as not to waste is the product of false guilt.

  • Brett Owens

    Richard. You should come to SBP! Lets pull some plastic together!