The Body and Faith: A Look at the importance of Physical Body

I don’t know if I ever heard anything about the importance of a physical body when I was growing up in the church.  I certainly never heard anything in seminary, and it was only when I moved to Durango Colorado that I engaged with people in conversations concerning the importance of nutrition and exercise.  Of course, in High School, we all went to the gym to lift weights, and the people with good genetics, a high metabolism, and the discipline to be consistent grew the show muscles and went to the beach with six-pack abs.  But there never was a conversation about how to take care of your physical body in relationship to what it means to follow Jesus.

This morning I met with a GREAT group of men to discuss the importance of taking our physical bodies seriously.  Based on a passage in 1 Corinthians 6, I highlighted the importance of food, exercise, sexuality, and prayer and meditation.  Paul writes, Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

This book of Corinthians wasn’t one of the “normal” Pauline letters to a church that was growing in their knowledge and practical living according to God.  Actually, the people of Corinth were taking MUCH liberty with their worship practices, their discipline and condemnation of others, their struggle with who was greater in the Kingdom of God, and Paul was pretty disgusted with the way the church was functioning.

When he gets to this chapter in 1 Corinthians 6, I think there are a few points we can learn from and re-examine in our own pursuit of Loving God AND Loving Others.

Food is for the Stomach and the Stomach for Food (6:13)

Food is one of those things that can either be an enjoying experience, or a shackle around our lives that controls us.  Some people understand the purpose of food to fuel the body and put the right nutrition in place, and others; well, food becomes an idol.  It’s something to be worshipped.  Others even use food to “comfort” through boughs of depression and/or to feel good about the high levels of stress in our environment.  Either way, when food becomes something we worship, instead of take control of; we can find ourselves in the midst of a battle for control.  At the beginning of the chapter Paul writes “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything”(6:1)

I asked the guys how many of us think about food in relation to faith?  After all, living the life of following Jesus requires us to examine all areas of our lives and make sure that we are free from the things that may be mastering our behavior.  The long heresy of Gnosticism proclaims two parts of humanity:  a flesh and a spirit.  But after the history of faith moved past this obvious dichotomy, it became essential to see our humanity as whole.  We don’t live in one physical world and a spiritual world, they’re all part of the world.

Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.

Sexuality is a part of our physical life.  We’re all sexual beings.  And I believe it’s important we don’t brush this under the rug.  We live in a sexual culture, and we must discover the intention of God’s creation concerning sexuality if we’re going to be whole followers of Jesus.  I wonder:  Have we put so much emphasis on sexuality that we’ve allowed the very sensation to master us?

When I work with young adults, it’s amazing to find how many of them are “addicted” to pornography.  And when I survey 30-45 year old men, I find the same chains of bondage happening in Men.  (I don’t  work with women very often so I don’t know how it emerges in a female group.)  But overall, we don’t take our sexual physical lives seriously in our culture.  Affairs seem to make the headlines, pornography is a billion dollar industry, and all these things happen NOT because Jesus followers are exempt.  We need to take inventory of how we deal with our sexuality, and ask “Is our expression of sexuality consistent with how God has called us to live?”

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  (6:19-20)

And so to think about our faith in a whole way, we must inventory, examine, and be ready to act when it comes to our physical life.  We don’t need to feel the guilt and shame of where we are; rather we need to see the benefit of training this gift called a body in a way that honors the one we follow.  If you honor food, you’re health with show.  If you honor exercise, you can make it an idol.  If you honor sexuality, then you have another arena to deal with.  But if you desire to honor God with your body, you can start today.

Set some realistic goals.  Maybe it would be to eat healthier.  Maybe it would be to walk around the block, or take the stairs at work instead of the elevator.  Maybe it’s time to reach out and get help concerning your sexual behavior so that you can find out what it means to honor God with your sexuality.

But to deny this important dimension of humanity, is to deny the beauty of the creation God made.

My desire is to follow God with all parts of my body, mind, soul, and spirit.  It’s what Jesus calls me to.

Let me know what you think

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