“You are more than just a body. You are also more than just a soul. Your body and soul are intertwined, making up the whole of who you are as a person…Your physical body is tied to your spiritual life.” Author Chrystie Cole in Body Matters
Oh how I wished someone discipled me in that truth quoted above while I was growing up.
Growing up in church, I learned a lot about the “dos and don’ts”, but I was not discipled in the significance of Christ centered purpose and stewardship of my whole self: body, mind and spirit.
In preparing for this write-up, I did a quick survey of Scripture that reflected how our bodies, from head to toe, inside and out, can be either be engaged in sin and idolatry leading to spiritual death, darkness and destruction or healing, restoration, transformation, worship, obedience and service leading toward light and life that reflects and glorifies God and blesses others.
This small survey was pretty profound and I considered listing out those verses here. Not to shame us in any way, but to open our eyes that what we believe about our bodies matters and that what we do with our bodies matter. We are always believing something and doing something with our bodies. We engage in and experience life through these fearfully and wonderfully made bodies knitted together by God. Our unique “wiring” that expresses our soul, our temperament,
character and personality is housed our bodies (See Psalm 139). Our bodies hold our spirits, that part of us that is redeemed by, recreated in, and connects us to new life in Christ in the here and now while we wait for the “not yet” of His return. And our bodies are where the gift of His Spirit lives within us, empowering us to live out our purpose (See Ezekiel 36:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As believers we are not just an individual body, but a part united with the whole living body of Christ, the church (See 1 Corinthians 12:14-27). What happens to one of us effects the whole of us. Our bodies will exist in an eternity.
For believers, our bodies will be resurrected just like the resurrected body of Christ and we will enjoy Him forever in perfect peace, restoration, fellowship and purpose (See 1 Corinthians 15:42, Jude 24-25). And finally, the most glorious truth about our bodies is that our bodies are God’s good creation, made in His image. We are image bearers of our Creator, created by Him and for Him (See Genesis 1:26-
27, 31, 2:20-22, Isaiah 43:7,10, I Corinthians 6:13b). This is the ultimate truth that is to guide what we believe and choose to do with our bodies. Our God designed eternal purpose and responsibility of stewardship cannot be separated out of these earthen vessels we inhabit here on this side of heaven, neither can the effects of sin upon our bodies, minds and souls. (See Genesis 3:6-10, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, 1 Corinthians 15:42-57). So what we believe about our bodies matters, because our believing shapes our doing and our doing forms the habits, disciplines and rhythms for how we live, how we respond to God, what purpose we live toward and for.
In Body Matters, author Chrystie Cole, writes, “The darkness surrounding body and body image is thick in our current culture, and I believe many of us have become disoriented and lost (page 23).” There is much deception in our culture authored by the Enemy of our souls and as believers, if we are not rooted in Scriptural truth, we will fall prey to this deception, I have fallen prey to the deception. The world’s loud message is, “It’s my body and I can do with it what I please .” We consume images and messages that constantly reflect back to us that our value is connected to our size, strength and status. In the church, the message can sound like: “As long
as you are living right (being morally good) the outward body is not relevant to God, your life or faith, only the ‘spiritual’ things matter.” I have often heard this quote by Elisabeth Elliot, “We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies for ourselves.”
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Sprit of the Lord is there is freedom. We all with unveiled faces, are beholding as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; and this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
In this myriad of confusing messages we can believe things that can lead us to two extremes: body obsession (“If only my body looks like this, then I will be happy”) or body neglect (“What I do with my body doesn’t matter” or “I can never measure up, so why bother.”) Body obsession is being consumed with attempts to exert control and change over anything and everything about our bodies that we deem “not good enough”. Body neglect is a swing to the other end of the pendulum, where we are ignorant or in over-indulgent denial of our responsibility of stewardship
of our bodies or we have been so defeated, abused, hurt or put down we give up exercising this stewardship of our bodies and live in shame and defeat. Body obsession and/or neglect can manifest in many different ways. Both extremes are a hard “taskmaster”, neither bring true freedom, acceptance, love, joy, security or peace we long for. The devil is crafty and wiser than we, he keeps the deception mirror alluring, always beckoning us to take another look, whether it’s to persist in seeking more beauty and perfection, indulging every passion, or reminding us of
our shame and unworthiness, because more looks mean we stay in bondage. The last thing he wants is for us to know the glory, truth and grace of God that can set us free.
But it’s our choice as to where we choose to keep putting out gaze. We need to break away from those mirrors of deception and set our gaze on the person of Christ. We daily desperately need Biblical truth and the fullness of God’s grace and wisdom to combat the lies to not overvalue or undervalue the care of our bodies. Chrystie goes on to write, “We cannot afford to reject, neglect…the body, nor
can we afford to exalt, worship or idolize the body…we need to weed out the lies and build a solid understanding of the body based on God’s truth, allowing it to shape how we think, feel, and act regarding our bodies. (Page 25).”
In Chapter 2 of Body Matters Chrystie Coyle presents three lies that can shape what we believe about our bodies and Biblical truths for countering these lies. The lies are: “It’s my body” (ownership), “I can reverse the curse”(image and performance) and “My body is irrelevant to my faith”(purpose) (What is in parentheses is my description of the theme of each lie.). I highly recommend you read the book to get in on all the eye-opening truth application she so graciously invites the reader to consider. For the sake of time I would like hi-light a few of her words that I believe summarize well the importance of our bodies: “Following Jesus…begins by [humbly] acknowledging His ownership over your body and its goodness as one of God’s beautiful creations…your body is an issue of discipleship; its an issue bringing everything you
do to and with your body under authority of the Lord. The beautiful and comforting truth is that your body[no matter its ability, appearance, shape or size] matters to the Lord, and He has entrusted it to you to care for it in His best interest[which is also what is His best for you] (Page 29, italics mine).”
Then one of the Pharisees invited Him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil. (Luke 7:36-38)
As I was preparing to write this article and thinking about the topic of body image within a Biblical framework, the Holy Spirit captured my heart in a fresh way through the story in Luke 7:36-50. The woman mentioned in these verses is labeled as a sinner or an immoral woman and the Bible very specifically makes note of this two times in the story. Two things are for certain: this woman’s whole body was used to engage in whatever sins she committed, just like ours is, and this woman worshipped Jesus with her whole self, something we often are so reserved in. The message of this woman’s worship is uniquely personal and unusual in light of
the culture and time this story took place, consider that for a while. If social media had existed back then this would have gone wildly viral! The woman knew who she was and what she had done, Jesus knew who she was and what she had done. She ignores all propriety and cultural norms of the day and engages in abandoning worship with her whole body, mind and soul and Jesus does not reject her offering. Through worship, she is able to see through her shame, all the things she had done, to her Savior, her “Generous Uplifter”. It did not matter to Jesus what this woman looked like, but it did matter that she knew who He was and what He offered her.
Meditate on the beauty of this woman’s’ worship, it is powerful. Even her tears and hair are used in expression of adoration, devotion and love to Jesus. But more importantly gaze upon the One to whom she worshipped and ask yourself, “What do I believe about myself and my body that keeps me from worshipping Jesus like this?” We spend so much time trying to manage our looks, lives, desires and wants we often miss out seeing Jesus and seeing ourselves through His eyes. I don’t think this woman or Jesus cared much about her appearance in this moment.
Maybe that is why she could worship with so much abandon of herself. In the heart of sacred worship, where we honestly recognize our desperate need for His mercy, appearances don’t matter.
How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”-Isaiah 52:7