the importance of the body

The other day I tweeted that I have noticed a troubling trend among my theology students: too few understand or even speak of the resurrection of the body. Most will acknowledge it after I point it out, but by default they tend to discuss the afterlife in terms of a body-less existence. Here are a few more thoughts on that.

In neglecting the teaching of the resurrection of the body, I think we show how little we appreciate the importance of the body – the human body – in the Christian faith. Christianity (especially in its north American Protestant-evangelical form) has become too much of a cognitive religion, more about thinking (we call it believing) the right things, less about doing things that demonstrate trust (what the Bible means by believing) in the Lord. This brings us much too close to the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. In this form of Christianity, we are less able to account for the fact that most acts of sin are bodily acts (e.g., adultery, lust) or involve physical objects (e.g., stealing, coveting).

We are also unable to account for the fact the Jesus required his followers to engage in acts that were primarily physical in orientation, e.g., feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned, laying hands on the sick and healing them of physical ailments. These are things Jesus did and set his followers to doing. Some of them we still do, but we often fail to understand the spiritual import of such acts precisely because we have severed the connection between the physical and spiritual in our thinking. They were not separate in Jesus’ thinking. Feeding the hungry was not some side project for Jesus, he set it as one of the fundmental criteria on which we will be judged – as in eternally judged.

Visiting those who are sick or in prison is not just a nice thing to do, it is a fundamentally spiritual act. Laying hands on someone who is sick and praying for them is a physical act that invokes real spiritual power to gain a phyiscal result. Does that even make sense to us? Or has the physical been so divorced from the spiritual that we cannot even imagine such a thing happening? Is this perhaps why we don’t see it happening?

Monday mediations Ps. 105.17: your not so random path

The Lord sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. Ps. 105.17

If you’re not familiar with the story of Joseph, it is worth the read, one of the most captivating stories in the Bible (see Gen. 37-46). In short, he was the 11th out of 12 brothers and clearly his father’s favorite. His brothers grew quite jealous of their special brother, faked his death, and sold him as a slave to a caravan headed to Egypt. Nice. Once there, things initially looked like they were improving for Joseph, until he wound up unjustly (and indefinitely) imprisoned. Turns out, God sent Joseph to Egypt in order to save that entire nation and his own (large) family from starvation in a 7 year long famine. And the mode of transportation God arranged for Joseph was a slave caravan. And the lodging God prepared for Joseph was a jail cell. Things worked out quite well for Joseph in the end and for all who were touched by his work. Joseph later tells his (guilt ridden) brothers that the whole thing was God’s design to save many. This Psalm tells us, “until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” Funny how our paths can seem so random at times and yet completely fit with who we are and who we are becoming. If you are in the pit/slave caravan/jail phases of your journey, don’t despair. They are as much a part of your path as the dreams God has given you. Tests forge character, preparing you for what God has for you. All the random, loose ends of your life are neither random nor loose, they have been set in your path on purpose. Accept the Lord’s transportation and lodging, however he chooses to send it. Be as faithful as you can (as Joseph was as a slave and inmate) where you are, doing all like you’re doing it for Jesus himself (because you are), and try to enjoy the ride. Reflect this week on what it might have felt like to be sent via slave caravan and how the random (especially negative) experiences in your life might be part of God’s sending you for a great purpose.