At St. Andrew AME, the Robinsons have a ministry called “The Right Start” — a new program that trains “Milk Missionaries” to guide new and expectant mothers, to help them reach their breast-feeding goals.
Such public health matters are often thought of as government responsibilities. Does the faith community also have a responsibility when it comes to public health in general, and breastfeeding in particular?
Many Christians and non Christians have wrongly believed that the church has everything to do with saving sinful souls and nothing to do with building better bodies. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The biblical narrative portrays a God who is as deeply invested in physical health as he is in spiritual health. Consider the Gospel. Though God could have sent his Son in an ethereal form, he sent Jesus in the flesh. This same Jesus could have focused solely on the ministry of preaching, hoping to mend broken hearts, right wrong thinking, and overcome sinful tendencies. Instead, Jesus also focused on the ministry of healing—mending broken bones, righting wrong diseases, and overcoming physical disabilities. Salvation for the world came not only through the shedding of blood on a cross but also through the raising of a body from the tomb and the promise of a bodily resurrection for all who follow Jesus. Though our post-resurrection bodies will be radically different from our current ones, they will be bodies. We’ll be spending eternity in heaven not as ghosts or spirits but as people with bodies.
The apostle Paul understood this. When writing to Christians in Corinth who marketed a God who cared for the well-being of the spirit but not for the body, Paul chastised them with these words: “Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”
Several years ago I preached a message on this topic. It prompted a member of our congregation to begin a new ministry called “Healthy Highland.” It’s a ministry focused on drawing attention to matters of physical health and creating opportunities for the improvement of physical health. From hosting bike rides to coordinating workshops and seminars, this ministry attempts to empower people to honor God with their bodies.
This issue also motivates our work among the poor and others in Memphis. From our adoption of the NICU at LeBonheur, to our partnerships with HopeWorks and Agape, to our work at Ashtyn Hills apartments we are committed to ministering to both body and soul in Memphis.
And this issue drives teams like the one leaving next week from Highland to Guatemala. Church members will join staff from LeBohnheur for a medical/surgical mission at Clinca Ezell in Montellano, Guatemala.
Ours is a God who cares for every body (and soul).