Posted by: DCox | June 14, 2009

Our Place in a Healthy Creation

How do we understand health in the U.S.? Generally, we see health as a lack of disease or infirmity. What if health is more holistic and defined in terms of possessing positive qualities?

While working for a Christian non-profit doing community-based development in Africa, we often talked about holistic health and equated it with well-being in all the realms of life, i.e., spiritual, social, physical, etc. This thinking isn’t alien to other cultures. Swahili uses two words for health: afya and uzima. Afya is what we English-speakers think of as physical health, while uzima denotes more holistic health.

shalomAnother way to think about health is in terms of all the relationships we have – our connections with creation, self, others, and God. When these relationships are as God intended them, then that’s health [see the definition of Shalom], even if our bodies are in the process of dying. Think about the articles you’ve read that indicate friendships improve the quality of life or that married men have a longer life expectancy than single men. However, it should be evident to all that there is a great deal of brokenness in our relationships with others and that this brokenness spans the face of the earth.

edenYet we also need to examine the brokenness that characterizes humanity’s relationship with creation. God’s design for mankind’s relationship with creation is outlined in the early chapters of Genesis (prior to the Fall). Just as each of us is the moment by moment recipient of the Sustainer, so is creation. The earth and the universe itself would not exist today or next week, if Jesus wasn’t sustaining its existence. We have this in common with creation: we are created, we have biological similarities in our creatureliness, and we have a Creator and Sustainer. However, we are also distinct in our being made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God includes creative ability and the ability to care and nurture creation. We are part of creation, yet called to reflect God in our care for His creation (Gen 2:15).

Are we in right relationship with the environment; caretakers of creation? We treat the earth as a resource to be mined for our benefit. We have become users and abusers, rather being the co-recipients of God’s grace. We’ve taken on the mantle of gods. We choose not to recognize our connectedness with nature because: 1) we have a mechanistic view which allows us to view creation (and even other people) as resources to be used, 2) in the West, we are dualists fragmenting the integration of body and spirit with the consequent either debasing or worshipping the body, and 3) we fear the mystery of those things not easily defined and categorized, especially death and suffering (which are inherent to being biological entities).

Right relationships. Right relationships are relationships that function in the way God intended.


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