“The Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science (SPPS) released a study last month demonstrating that religious people live longer.” That is what Fox News reported recently. Researchers found that religiously affiliated people lived between 5.64 and 9.45 years longer than those who were not religiously affiliated.
However, there is no reason yet for Christians to be triumphant or feel vindicated. In the first place, it is good to note that this article, as well as the study, speak about ‘religion’ and not about Christian faith. Religion in the present time can be anything except outright atheism. So saying that religious people live longer, doesn’t say much yet. It is important to figure out why they live longer. In certain circumstances we could even say that some ‘religious’ people live shorter. For example, fundamentalist Muslims living in the Middle East. Many of them are tricked into sacrificing their own life for the cause of ‘Allah’, and therefore they often die young. Or, as another example, certain sects where they practise unhealthy behaviour, for instance those sects where snake-handlers believe that they are immune for snake bites.
Let’s have a closer look at this article. What is it that makes ‘religious’ people live longer? It appears that being an active part of a society is what makes a big difference. Religious people often go to church or other ‘religious’ services. A number of studies mentioned in this article show that it is that element, participating in any kind of religious service, which makes people feel less stressed, and decreases the suicide rate, as well as the rate of death through stress related illnesses.
Therefore, the American Council on Science and Health even has the courage to say that you don’t have to become a nun to get these health benefits … The simple act of congregating with a like-minded community might deserve much of the credit.
A few comments must be made here.
In the first place, this shows how true it is, what the Bible says, that God created us, human beings, to live in relationships. In relationship with Him, as well as in relationship with each other. We live in a society where it is all about individualism. The big city was supposed to be about social life and community, but it has become the place for loneliness and anonymity. As Christians, we often don’t realise it, because we are part of the communion of the church. We have our contacts. But if you make the effort to reach out to your unbelieving neighbour or colleague or fellow uni student, you will soon discover that many of them don’t have many contacts, many even don’t know what it is to have dinner together, or they will greatly appreciate it if you have time to go out with them for a coffee. We as Christians have so much to offer to this world. It starts with showing them how good it is to be part of a community. Invite your neighbour or fellow student over for dinner and show to them how good it is when brothers and sisters live together in communion. This is often the best way to evangelise!
Secondly, not just every community guarantees you a longer life. In this article in Fox News, the author rightly comments that there is still a difference between a community of people who are united in one goal, and a Christian community in which we are all one because we have the same Father. It has often been said that the gay (LGBTQI…) community is such a close knit unity, because they are all fighting for a common cause. This is true, and that is the reason why they keep fighting and pushing even though they have achieved almost everything they wanted to achieve. They need a common cause to fight for or else that society will disintegrate. And that is with so many other groups. They are so often united because of a common goal or a common enemy, but once the goal has been achieved or the enemy defeated, then the feeling of communion ends. That is different with Christians. The author, J. Warner Wallace, writes,
A common interest can bind us as friends, but a common Father binds us as family. Most of us, if raised in loving families, understand why this difference matters. Your family is more likely to love you, even when you’re occasionally unlovable. Your family is also more likely to sacrifice for you if times get tough.
I believe he is right. It is not just the simple act of socialising that is a blessing. It is more, it is the fact that we are all one as children of the Father, that we all know that we have a closer relationship with each other than just friends. Not everyone in the congregation needs to be your friend, but hey are all your brothers and sisters. You know, whether they like you or not, you are part of the congregation because you are also child of the Father. And therefore, we will be there for each other.