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“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 2).

IN JOHN’S PRAYER FOR GAIUS, HIS BROTHER IN CHRIST, THERE IS AN INTERESTING ORDER OF PRIORITIES. Whereas most people would think first about a friend’s physical state and then also hope they were doing well spiritually, John prays that “you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” In other words, John knew that Gaius was doing well spiritually, and that was the main priority. If he was also healthy physically, that would be a nice extra.

There is such a thing as “soul health,” and it is a much more important issue than most people acknowledge. In these days of emphasis on holistic health and wellness, many people do pay attention to “spirit” and “mind,” but in the New Testament, the health of the soul goes a good bit deeper than peace of mind, tranquillity, emotional balance, and a sense of oneness with the universe. If the gospel of Christ is true, we are not in good spiritual health if we are not in a right relationship with the God who created us — and that requires the objective, actual forgiveness of our sins through obedience to the message of salvation in Christ.

The evidence of a right relationship with God is not to be found in our feelings but in the text of the Scriptures. If there is consistency between our commitment to Christ and what the New Testament teaches must be true for us to have eternal life, then our soul is in good health. The hope — and therefore the joy — we have is based on the objective promise of God in the Scriptures, and not on the feelings of peace generated by meditation or mindfulness.

This is not to say that the neurological and psychological kinds of tranquillity that come from meditation are of no use at all. They can be extremely helpful in many ways — and this writer is a devoted practitioner of mindfulness. But tranquillity should not be confused with rightness of relationship to God. And if, not having been saved from our sins by the gospel of Christ, we do not enjoy justification with God, all the tranquillity and wellness we might have achieved by worldly means will come to a screeching halt when we die. Bodily health, including emotional serenity, is well enough. But of far greater import is how well our souls are faring.

“Body: not a home but an inn — and that only briefly” (Seneca).

Gary Henry — +

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