Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
– 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” As such, I try to learn from each verse of the Bible, at least each chapter, but the featured Scripture above made me cringe when I was growing up.
Ask any 100 high school graduates what their favorite class was in school, and at least 95 will say Physical Education (PE). Maybe a few less female graduates, but it is by far the top of every survey on the internet. I was a nerd, who grew up to be a professional nerd. PE was never in my top ten favorite classes in high school. Other than my senior year of high school, I hated PE.
Getting back to the Scripture, every coach that I ever had said, “The body is the temple” to justify whatever game, contest, or exercise was next on the agenda. Never the complete verse, never the previous or trailing verse to apply context, just those five words. Yet, Paul was warning against sexual immorality. Really, Paul could simply say that anything that we do that is not in glorification of God is wasted time, wasted effort, and could be sin or stepping toward a slippery slope. It does not have to be sexual immorality here. That was the subject in this case, because Paul had heard that the people of Corinth had gone down that path.
When we do anything, parts of our body have performed the action. Even a thought requires synapses to fire in our brains. That is the bottom line of this Scripture. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. To follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we must “tune in and turn on.” Sorry for the Timothy Leary reference, but that portion is appropriate here. There are no psychedelic drugs necessary, no drugs at all. The more we study God’s Word, pray, and listen, the more the Holy Spirit guides us and the closer to Jesus we become.
That is being the temple for the Holy Spirit, becoming more like Jesus, regardless of body shape.
Now, there is merit in exercise. I hated calisthenics. My coaches were never the people that I could look up to except for one. The others were crude, rude narcissists, who enjoyed inflicting pain, and most enjoyed inflicting pain that had no relationship with muscular gain. It was pain strictly for their enjoyment, to watch these boys (PE was gender segregated.) become barbarians in the moment of competition. In trying to see life through their eyes (so that I can forgive and move on), they were probably passed over for the head coach job and they were stuck teaching PE classes to a bunch of out-of-shape losers. With that attitude, they might resort to sadism. I am not excusing their attitude or actions, just trying to follow the cause-effect. I didn’t say that I was a professional nerd just to be funny. I try to analyze everything, especially when observing a personal slight and wanting to find a way to understand their motives which helps me forgive completely.
But to the credit of the one coach, I will admit that he was a gem. In my junior year of high school, he noticed in a few of the exercises in PE that I had a longer stride than the other boys in class. He recruited me to join the track team. That year, all I did was train to run the mile, and act as the equipment guy. I nailed the blocks into place for all the sprinters and hurdlers at all the meets. In practice, I simply ran, but I occasionally did wind sprints and other things that were designed to get the most out of the kick at the end of the race. When I got bored, I also tried my hand at everything on the ‘field’ side of things except the pole vault. If I had done that, I could have worked toward the decathlon, an event that they didn’t have at the high school level at that time. Now understand, at this time in my life I weighed 155 pounds before I started working out and 145 pounds after the two-hour practice session. I was roughly 5ft 11in at the time. I had to weigh in before and after each practice. The coach was worried that I was too thin to have the stamina for long distance. What he didn’t know was that my slight knock-knee and bowed leg problem would eventually do me in for a lifetime of running. My knees fell apart 2-3 years after I left the Army.
But during my senior year, I had study hall one hour before PE. The coach worked out a deal that I could skip studying, since my grades were excellent. I ran the bleachers in the gymnasium for my study hall hour. I was a blur, running unknown vertical miles each day. Then, I did other things for the next hour, rarely playing games with the class. A month before the track season, he taught me how to run the mile. Of the four laps, the first is to obtain position and learn who the competitors were. Did they want to stay in front or were they willing to run in a pack? Were they laboring or jogging? I spent the first lap driving on my toes, churning the track, getting out front and making the pace too hard for the others. The next two laps were heel to toe of each foot. The coach wanted me to take the momentum of the hard first lap and convert it into a glide. My mantra was “Heel-Toe-Fly.” I was kind of doing the triple jump for two laps, but never actually jumping. I would land on my heel, rotate to the toes, and then launch, dreaming that I was flying until the heel landed for the other foot to repeat the process. The final lap depended on how much energy I had left and where the other competitors were. At least, the last 200 meters would be an all-out sprint, on my toes and driving.
My best time in practice was 4 minutes 22 seconds. It wasn’t running at my best. I still had room for improvement, but that would have been the state record at that time, if it had been an official race. Then my Dad came back from a job in Delaware with the flu. My mother spent the following week at home with the flu. In my memory, she had never spent a day at home sick until then. It was as if the germs were afraid of her. I never got sick with the flu that year, but I developed a cough that lasted six months. If I ran 100 meters, I would start coughing and could not continue running. I missed the entire track season. I see the Olympians on TV and wonder what could have been.
I understand their sacrifice to be great athletes. I envy their relationship with a good coach. But not even great physical fitness can guarantee long life. Jim Fixx, who wrote The Complete Book of Running and other books about jogging, started the jogging craze, but he died of a heart attack while jogging at the age of 52.
I wish I had more good coaches in my youth. If I looked up to them as human beings, I might have enjoyed exercise.
Oh, I enjoy watching sports of almost all kinds. While watching the Olympic coverage, I heard someone say, “The body is the temple.” It brought back the flood of bad memories, but it brought back memories of the love shown by one coach, who thought that I was special. When I went off to college, the coach got a job in Florida. He noticed a boy running for a rival cross-country team. They started talking about how this boy’s gait reminded him of someone in Mississippi, someone that was a special runner. As the conversation went on, the boy realized, “Yeah, we’re cousins!” I learned of the conversation when my cousin called me.
If you enjoy exercise, enjoy it. Don’t judge others who do not like it. If you do not like to exercise, you need to keep moving, one way or another. There may come a time when it gets harder to move. In that respect, the old coaches may have taken a part of a Bible verse and misused it, but you don’t want to get too infirmed to do what God has prepared for you to do. After all, ‘the body is the temple…’
As for the Olympic athletes, I will always cheer a good USA victory. With my wife immigrating from the Netherlands (and having cousins who were championship skaters), I will always cheer for the Orange-clad skaters. I don’t mind a German victory now and then, having lived there for three years. Mostly, I enjoy watching young people play by the rules and having a good time.
God made us for just that, playing by the rules and enjoying Him and the Joy that we have being in His presence.