Saturday, September 29, 2012

Soul Food

by Andrew Cromwell

If you believe in God, then you must believe in the existence of a part of us that cannot be seen. No amount of weighing or measuring or searching with microscopes will reveal this part. You can cut us open and look inside, you can draw blood and run tests and you can even make us stand in front of that x-ray machine thingy at the airport, but you will not be able to see our soul.

Our soul is that invisible part of us — being invisible makes it no less real — that governs and directs and makes us truly who we are. Some have called it “the ghost in the machine”, although no matter how we try, we have not been able to build a machine and summon the ghost. And while our physical body connects us with the world around us and serves as the intermediary through which we taste, touch, smell and sense it — it is the soul that gives these experiences their texture and weight. No amount of neurons firing in the brain can ever hope to explain this thing we call consciousness — it is soul-territory.

Without the soul, the body dies (let us save the ever popular zombie discussion for another day). The experiences of virtues like love, courage, joy, hope and vices like lust, cowardice, anxiety and hopelessness cannot happen without the soul. It is only through the soul that we can communicate with God, and it is our soul that endures long after the physical body dies.

Now even though we all have a soul, we also have a body. This physical part of us is very useful. It is through this body that we move around, communicate with others and generally get things done in the physical world. Without this body, we would be ghosts — and ghosts cannot be particularly effective in our world.

But as useful as this body is, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Let us say it this way, the body makes a wonderful slave but a terrible master. The body must be fed and cared for and if treated well can be wonderful. But if the body’s appetites are over-fed, it can become like a ravenous dog restlessly searching for its next meal and not caring particularly from where it comes.

The natural order of things is for our soul to direct our body. If we want to become more loving, we direct our body to do things that are kind and put others first. If we want to become more courageous, then we order our body to stand and do what is right in situations when we feel afraid or timid.

When our body’s appetites for food, sex, entertainment, and busyness — among many others — become the driving force in our lives, we flip things upside down and our soul is diminished. Solomon, the wisest man in the world, said when this happens: “We work to feed our appetites; meanwhile our souls go hungry” (Eccl. 6:7).

So the question is, whom are you feeding more frequently, your soul or your body? People who consistently feed themselves healthy soul food — a regular diet of God’s Word and giving oneself to others — discover true joy. But those who only feed the lower desires of our body increasingly lose the capacity for true greatness.

The pastors of Kings County are serving up soul food this weekend. Perhaps you need a change of diet?

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