Nothing without Love
Some think love is that warm fuzzy feeling you get when snuggled up with a significant other. Some think love is that satisfying savory goodness that hits your lips when you drink a beer or that sensation on your tongue when you bite into a juicy cheeseburger or a hot slice of pizza. Some believe all you need is love, while others will tell you love is a battlefield and a mere secondhand emotion. People say love hurts or love stinks, yet so many of us would do anything for love. Some of us are addicted to love and so crazy in love. But really, what is love?
Love Defined and Displayed
Love is the ultimate motive for living well, the most powerful source for health and the most fundamental component for fitness. Love is strong and enduring. It’s priceless and timeless. It has the power to conquer all things and to make all things new. Since God is who He is, it’s only fair that our definition of love derives from Him. God is also strong and enduring, priceless and timeless. Love originates from God because God is love (1John 4:8). He has singlehandedly conquered our sin and renewed our minds. He captivates the hearts of those who believe in Him, to put love in them through the humble and selfless servant, Jesus.
When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.…Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. —John13:1,2–5
On Jesus’s final night on earth at His last meal with His disciples, He performed a lower-class duty, one of the most dirty, menial tasks—washing their feet. Knowing full well the great tragedy that was soon approaching and who would be responsible for His betrayal and murder, He continued firmly according to God’s plan without complaint. Even as He was master and lord to them, He lovingly cleansed them. Even in their incompetence, even with all their mistakes, infractions, and idiosyncrasies, Jesus had one mission, a call to sacrificial love. This demonstration of humility and devotion of service to them reveals His unadulterated passion for His people.
Love Begins with God
Think about what life is like today. What seems to be modern society’s call? We hardly hear of anyone washing other people’s feet. It seems all we hear about is racism, sexism, terrorism, sex scandals, gun violence, economic turmoil, and loss of hope in humanity. We’ve tried desperately to fix all these things with civil rights movements, stricter laws, by fighting wars and dropping bombs, and through bigger more powerful governments. We’ve thrown billions and billions of dollars at all our problems, and the divisiveness just seems to further grow. We have missed the truth that no matter how many battles we win or the amount of money we make, or how many laws we pass, we can never create a world of peace and unity without the love of the Lord.
What do you think life will be like 20 years from now? What will the call be then? Will there be a call to protest? A call to boycott? Who can know? Will there be a call to co-exist? A call to battle? No one can really be sure. But, we can know that regardless of how many burdensome conflicts arise, how depressing the days become, or how great the trial or tribulation, there will always be a definite call to love.
When I look at my past, I can identify with the unhealthy hate and corruption that destroys hearts and minds. They also caused me to neglect God, my first love, my one truest love. By His grace, I have learned that without love, we cannot be like Christ. Jesus didn’t come into the world to fight hate with hate, but to fight hate with love—godly love. He didn’t come with a political agenda or ulterior motives, but to simply feed the hungry and heal the sick. He wasn’t here to terrorize with bombs and weapons of mass destruction, but to cure disease and to restore the soul. He came to begin the unstoppable force of the Body of Christ called the Church. To do that, He had one job: die in our place because of our sin to deliver us from wrath.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. —Mark 10:45
This charge He received from God, His father, and He carried out His objective through the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. This divine operation wasn’t motivated by things like freedom of speech or freedom of religion; it was motivated by everlasting love. Love is the main ingredient for mind renewal, soul conversion, and lifelong body transformation. Its power existed long before you, me, and the entire human race. God’s love has been around forever, and it has never failed, it will never die, and it will overcome anything that tries to stop it.
When God created everything, He gave us two essentials that made life possible on earth: water and light. Next, He gave us fish, dry land for fruits and vegetables, and then lamb, goats, cows, turkeys, and chickens. After that, Adam and Eve were created to be together, representing the first couple, and God initiated the opportunity for billions upon billions of people to have a chance at life. God took the nothingness of what we would never be and turned it into the fullness of what we now live and breathe, even though it would require the future sacrifice of His son on the cross. That is love!
Everything God provides for us is exactly what we’d expect from a loving father. He forged for us food, care, and shelter, but He didn’t stop there. God blessed us with ability—the ability to work, to be led by Him, and to lead others. He gave us the ability to procreate, to build, and invent. God blessed us with desire—the desire to love and thrive, the desire for joy and pleasure, celebration, and triumph, the desire to learn and share, inform and pass on.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. —John 15:12–14
You see, we shouldn’t waste time trying to compartmentalize faith or God, because the original source of love flows from Him and is Him. And if you’ve ever felt true love, whether through relationships, your career, or your hobbies, I believe you have felt the very presence of God Himself. To do away with God would be to remove all things that pertain to love and define love. God is love, Jesus Christ is our peace, and the unbreakable bond that unites every believer as family is the Holy Spirit.
We Are Called to Love Our Bodies
The call to love is a call that includes bodily integrity. Jesus said that if we are truly His followers, we will abide in His love by keeping His commandments. If we are truly Christians, we must be men and women of biblical honesty and blamelessness. The more veracious our hearts and minds, the more joy and health are divinely transferred to us in full. Jesus said this is like being good trees that bear good fruit. He often referred to Himself as living water and the light of the world, which are both necessary for growth and enrichment.
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. —Matt. 12:33
Too often I sold myself short of the perfect joy and happiness God makes available. I don’t think I ever actually wanted to be a bad tree bearing bad fruit, but what I did want was something much worse: to have the appearance of good fruit without taking on the responsibility of being a good tree. Here’s another way to put it. I wanted to reap the benefits of the light while still keeping secrets in the dark.
On some levels, I can relate to professional and college athletes that have been caught swindling their way to championships and record-breaking success. I’m sure if I had been in their shoes, I would have found ways to cheat, too. But it’s still sad to watch some of our favorite sports heroes plague themselves with scandals because of doping for dishonest gain. I believe that being motivated by the love of God gives us the power to avoid such unfortunate outcomes.
When we love our bodies the way God loves our bodies, we can avoid things like lies and deception. Perfect love puts an end to our being disqualified or stripped of our gold crowns spiritually and physically. Only the love of God enables us to truly be the best and at the top of our game. It prevents the worst from coming out in the end. It shines brighter than any other global spotlight and extends our prime into eternity. Thank God for His scandal of grace. Thank God that His call to unconditional love can mend damaged reputations so we can sprint after His ways of wisdom and walk with transparency.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. —Prov. 10:9,11–12
Every day, the call to integrity is ignored on the grounds that vainglory and selfish enterprise take precedence over sound mind, body, and soul. But that doesn’t just happen in the big leagues. It starts locally in our schools and recreation centers. It creeps into big corporate fitness clubs and mom-and-pop gyms with small-time people just like you and me. Many are the temptations along the journey to health and fitness, but the greatest combatant is love.
Love stops corruption and deterioration of health on all levels. Only love can stop a pregnant mom from drinking, smoking, and using drugs. Only love can enable an overweight dad to play more softball with his daughter and more basketball with his son. Love can help parents decide to discontinue the processed foods train that is railroading kids into obesity. Love is strong enough to carry the heavy burden of dieting and exercise to fight diseases that are killing people every single day. Love brings us out of hiding from the shame of being unhealthy and out of shape.
I remember when my health and my body were too much of a private matter that I had become an easy target for bearing bad fruit in the dark. My motivation behind a noticeable physique was a self-centered preventative measure for insecurity and embarrassment. Self-centered fear of getting fat and overweight led to a battle with bulimia that did more harm than good. The lack of godly fear caused me to eat whatever I wanted at the neglect of well-being, leaving me to resort to the unhealthy practice of making myself throw up, going on crash diets, and starving myself.
We Are Called to Control Our Impulses
Sometimes the struggle isn’t to stay thin but to get thick. Craving for increased muscle mass had me breaking the law to use non-prescribed steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Substance abusers in every form serve as a misrepresentation of what God created us to be. Jesus never lied to get His way and never cheated to get ahead. We must allow His incorruptible Holy Spirit to inspire our physique by guiding our hearts and appetites. Trust in Heaven’s champion who has immeasurable strength, countless riches, and victory that never ends.
The call to love is a call to self-control (Titus 2:1–15). Some people think the greatest human strength is willpower. But willpower without conviction can most certainly be dangerous. As we’ve seen and heard, it can turn male and female competitors into criminals greedy for more home runs, gold medals, and race titles. Willpower without truth can convince a liar to keep on lying, to cover up and deceive. Willpower without Jesus’s love can cause self-absorption, and without God’s love, it can cause self-destruction. The devil and his wreckage on earth is the prime example of willpower gone wrong.
In Genesis chapter 2 of the Bible, before the devil’s scheme unfolds, we get a glimpse of Adam’s wholesome character and how He represented God well. God had lovingly set everything up for human beings, the world at their feet, beginning with a paradise of bliss and the perfect place for Adam and Eve to raise a family. Adam never complained about anything. He gladly took on work and responsibility. There was a perfect balance that existed in everything, including Adam’s physical features and attributes. Adam never overate or gorged, and he was never gluttonous. He cared for his body, his muscles, his organs, and his senses in the same way he cared for the grounds in the perfect Garden of Eden.
He understood very well that God was in charge, and he willingly obeyed in submission. When Eve showed up in her perfect naked body, it’s worth noting that Adam didn’t lust after her. He didn’t objectify her, worship her, or seek to take advantage of her. He had no temptation to masturbate, abuse her sexually, or cause any type of physical anguish or disorder. Instead, he delighted in her, knowing full well this beautiful and physically fit woman was God’s gift to him.
He continued in his upright masculinity by loving her, naming her, leading her, nourishing her, and sharing all his knowledge with her about God’s will and God’s commands. It wasn’t until the devil showed up in Genesis chapter 3 that everything went awry. Although psychotic and delusional, the devil was slippery enough to ensnare Eve, tricking her into disobeying God.
Her willpower was bent by his swagger and sway, revealing her lack of self-constraint and a desire for unrestrained gratification. In that moment, Eve was so fixed on herself that she neglected her call to be an undaunted helper fit for Adam, who was also at fault since he did nothing to stop her, contributing to this unthinkable act. For the first time, love was distorted, tainted, and confused. Adam and Eve felt guilt and shame, a condition that caused them to run and hide from God.
God Commands Love for Our Good
Too many of us today have been hurt by a lack of self-control and the effects of distorted love. We are running and hiding from God when we should be pursuing Him in all things daily. Every waking moment, God desires to commune with us. He wants to be involved in what we eat for breakfast, how we dress, how we spend our time. As the knower of all things with unlimited understanding and infinite power, God is there to guide us in our decisions on the road, at work, at the gym, in our relationships, and as we work toward our goals.
I pray this week that we would all walk in love towards fitness. And that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul (3John 1:2).