It’s time to get off the couch and into the game!
It has long been known that maintaining a program of physical activity is essential for good health. In the days before health clubs and personal trainers, people’s daily work and routine had activity built in: walking to get from place to place, using human power instead of machine power, playing games, and the like. But even as medical knowledge and practices have advanced, in more affluent societies movement and exertion has diminished, and people have become more sedentary, bringing with it a raft of malaises and social consequences, and no easy way out.
The church has not been spared from this societal trend. The church is the place of God’s dwelling, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ, in which each member has an essential function, and when the parts work together in harmony, the body functions properly and enjoys health and unity for the common good (I Cor. 12:7). But rather than being active participants in the life and outreach of this precious body, too often we appear more like persons gathered to watch a sporting event, cheering for one team or booing another, and hoping our players will clinch a victory. This was never the intent of our Lord, when he gave his life at Calvary. Nor was it the intent when he sent his empowering Spirit on the believers at Pentecost.
So how do we remedy this condition of preferring to be spectators, when God has called us to be servants? We can learn from efforts exerted to get people active. The first effort is to raise awareness in order to show how an individual’s sedentary routines are ultimately harmful to persons, families and society in general. At the same time, the benefits of simple, active, healthy living are promoted. We must remind those followers of Christ who resign themselves to a passive faith that they will not only drag down the church, but will make the life of faith seem irrelevant to society. Our family members, friends and coworkers will be deprived of seeing how a child of God meets the challenges of life.
Secondly, exercise promoters devise ways of pulling people “off the couch” and into action, to experience a renewal of vigor for themselves. For example, of late we have been hearing about new exercise video games which require previously passive players to move their entire bodies, and not just their thumbs, in order to play. As a church, we can provide young people short-term projects or host Bible-based discussion groups for various age groups, so that they can experience the rewards and challenges of knowing and living our faith.
Thirdly, as people become self-motivated and attached to a more active life, they find ways to develop more seriously their new found lifestyle. No longer content with “virtual tennis,” for example, they get up, grab a racket and ball, and head to the courts.
Here at this third point is the greater challenge for us: to bring people, step by step, from spectators into action, and therefore into maturity – into a deeper commitment to Christ in every sphere of their lives,building up the church in truth and in love (Eph. 4:12-16). It will take the active participation and dedication of us all, but as we rise from our seats and get in the game, the Lord Jesus will surely transform us – and our world.
In Christ’s love,
Badveli Nishan Bakalian
ARMENIAN MARTYRS’ CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA, USA