One of the interesting aspects of Christianity is that it focuses on pursuing health rather than avoiding illness. This was the topic of a short discussion I had with my class today. Many times we think of Christianity only as a list of rules that help us avoid wrong behavior or keep us from having fun. This is what I hear frequently from students. However, this isn’t the goal. It isn’t focused on not doing wrong by creating a long list of don’ts. Instead, it is about living rightly and creating a lifestyle that is healthy. This is what I mean about pursuing health rather than avoiding illness.
The problem that many in our culture have with this message is that in order to create a healthy lifestyle and right living, we need things that are right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy. “Secularists, Marxists, and Postmodernists consider right and wrong to be burdensome because they hamper personal freedom.”¹ The reason for this is because most Secularists, Marxists, and Postmodernists consider themselves the highest authority. Their worldview says there is no religion or God they have to follow. This makes right and wrong relative to the individual, and no one can impose morality on another. This is what we are seeing in our culture today. “Who are you to judge?” A culture of relativism means a culture of no right and wrong, and this would allow people to have personal autonomy and choose whatever makes them happy. Is this really what is best?
I don’t think it is and here’s why.
We live in a culture with many rules that create right and wrong. And when we think about them, we see that most are in place to help us rather than hurt us. I have rules in my classroom not to limit my students’ freedom, but to create an environment of learning so that they benefit and grow. We have traffic laws not so the government can control us, but to protect us and create peace on the roads. Accidents and deaths generally happen when people are breaking the law. Take sports for example! Every sport has a long list of rules in order to make sure the payers are safe. Football has changed so much the last few years in because of their knowledge about concussions and health problems. We don’t see these rules as limiting the freedom of players but protecting them. Rules are there to pursue health rather than avoiding illness.
We also see this with a parent and a child. I don’t know any parent that allows their child to eat candy all day long and nothing else. Parents don’t force kids to each their vegetables to limit their freedom or to be burdensome. They also don’t do it just to avoid illness. Parents should do it because they want their child to be healthy. We also recognize that the child’s opinion on that matter really isn’t important because their knowledge is limited. The child says, “It tastes good. I like it. It makes me happy. So it must be good!” This shows that they don’t fully understand how things work. Parents, with their greater knowledge, create rules to pursue health for their children even when the child doesn’t understand.
The same is true for Christianity. We often look at our decisions and think, “It tastes good. I like it. It makes me happy. So it must be good!” However, we don’t fully understand the consequence of our decisions just like the child. Not everything that feels good is good, and not everything that feels bad is bad (Injections for example). Instead of a child and a parent, the true example is God and us. God has given us a list of right and wrong. It isn’t just a list of don’ts to limit our freedom and take away our fun, but they are guidelines that allow for a good, healthy lifestyle were we pursue doing right rather than merely avoiding wrong behavior.
It’s amazing what a slight change in perspective will do for a person when looking at rules.
¹ Jeff Myers, Understanding the Times, Summit Ministries