It’s another New Year and another occasion for many of us to make resolutions.
Change can be very good for us, and a common resolution for many is to either eat better or exercise more frequently.
My feelings about my body have been touchy since I was a boy, as I seemingly have been genetically predisposed to having a “dad bod.” I was as skinny as a stick growing up with the exception of my belly.
I’ve thus never felt great about how I look, so my motivation for taking care of my body has typically not been very high.
For a few years, though, I’ve been convicted to take better care of myself. The level of success I’ve had doing that has been hit or miss, but the conviction has remained.
The source of that conviction is scripture, and it’s an idea from scripture I think many Christians either haven’t fully thought out or intentionally avoid thinking about.
Paul talks in his first letter to the Corinthian church about the dangers of sexual immorality to the Christian, and a specific passage that deals explicitly with that has what I think is a broader message:
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body.” (1 Cor. 6:18-20, NIV)
There’s actually a lot of truth to be unpacked from that short section dealing with the Holy Spirit living within every Christian, only part of which will be touched on here.
In exhorting the Corinthians to flee from sexual immorality, Paul defines just how vitally important our bodies are in general: sinning against the body is a big deal precisely because our body also houses God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit, so what we do to our bodies we also do to God.
It naturally follows that, if the body is important because it’s God’s temple, then obviously not just sex, but whatever else we do to it (whether it be taking illegal drugs, frequently intoxicating it, overeating, etc.) is likewise a really big deal.
That sure isn’t stressed that much in Christian circles, is it? Not in those terms, at least.
How we treat our bodies is a really, really big deal as a Christian who is aiming at living his or her life as Christ’s devoted follower.
Just as our church sanctuaries and properties are kept up nicely, it only makes sense that we should also keep our bodies up so as to be fit for serving God in whatever manner He calls us.
Now, there are a lot of things this truth does not mean. Namely, it doesn’t mean we must become obsessed with being triathletes and making sure our bodies conform to societal norms of “beauty.”
It does mean that we ought to care about our general health and fitness. I don’t think social conventions for beauty have any bearing, but certainly caring for the health of our bodies by managing what we eat and how we are physically active apply.
Why? Not only because our bodies house the Holy Spirit, but because as Christians we are not gnostics, and we strongly believe in the importance of the material world, our bodies included. We believe our bodies, along with creation, will be glorified when Christ returns at the end of time.
And not only that, but, as Paul wrote, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Our lives, our bodies, our “rights,” belong to God – we are to put all that we are and all that we have at His altar to be used as He sees fit. We are to be ready to do whatever God may call us to do at any moment, which may conceivably entail being physically prepared to do a variety of common tasks.
And not only that, but part of loving our neighbors as ourselves (as Jesus calls us to do) involves, well, loving ourselves. In my own experience, while my eating habits have largely been informed by overly gratifying base urges, there’s also a strong hint of self-hatred underneath the surface, or at the very least self-indifference. My attitude toward my health and body is effectively: “Meh.”
But if we truly accept what scripture tells us about our bodies, we owe it to God as part of our Christian discipline to keep them well-maintained.
Again, please don’t read into this anything about beauty or concerns over appearance – this is about the scriptural mandate to treat our bodies as God’s temple and to fully love (care for) ourselves. Just as all our bodies are different, so the health and size each of us are / should be will vary.
What we all should be aiming for, though, is an overall awareness and care for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.