In the throes of my own journey away from sexual immorality, I often felt like my body was my enemy. Paul’s words in Romans 7 felt so right to me: For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)
I wanted to do better with my body, but it felt like my body wanted to keep sinning.
Many of us feel this same way in our battle against sin, whatever sin that may be. In response, some of us have adopted a low view of our bodies, a body suspicion, even a kind of body hatred.
As I wrote last week, it’s so vital to remember that God loves your body.
God’s design of the human creature was unique: A fusion of spirit and body—not a spiritual being encased in a body; not a physical being animated by a spirit; but spirit and body made into one seamless being—the human being.
After He created this unique creature, “God saw all that He had made and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Scripture doesn’t read, “…and behold, it was very good, except for the humans’ bodies.”
Have our bodies been impacted by the fall and sin? They have. So this experience of our bodies wanting to do what isn’t best for us or that which is against God’s will is a universal human experience.
We want to eat in moderation, but our mouths water at the sight of our favorite dessert.
We want to exercise, but our bodies feel too tired.
We want to be faithful to our spouse but our bodies feel aroused by the sight/touch/words of another person.
We want to keep cool, but anger seems to pulse through our veins.
We want to feel drawn to the other sex, but we feel more ourselves in the arms of the same sex.
We want to stop excessive drinking, but our bodies seem unable to relax without alcohol.
We want to care more for our kids, but our adrenaline pumps most when chasing success at work.
We want to keep our minds on God, but our brains stray here and there all day long.
So how are we to respond? Not by turning against our bodies, but by turning to God with our bodies.
Our bodies need redemption, yes, just like our spirits, and that is all the more reason why our bodies need God and His love not our hatred.
Look at how Jesus treated the physical bodies of those around Him and let it speak to your body:
He touched blind eyes and they were opened to see.
He healed the paralyzed.
He touched deaf ears and they became able to hear.
He touched those infected with leprosy and their skin was made new again.
He fed the hungry thousands.
He let the sexually sinful woman come intimately close to Him, washing His feet with her hair and tears.
He invited Peter to experience the physical thrill of walking on water!
He reclined with the beloved disciple, John, upon His chest.
Self-loathing and body-hatred are not of God but of the one who seeks to divide man from himself, and I believe he does so to divide us from God. If you and I reject our bodies as inherently and incurably evil, if we believe that God is therefore against our bodies, then what hope do we—spirit+body creatures—really have?
Jesus did not come to disintegrate (dis-integrate) man, but to make him whole again. He came in the flesh to do so. Had He come as a spirit only, our bodies would have no hope. But the Scripture writers went to great lengths to be clear on this point: Jesus lived, died, rose, ascended, and will return in the flesh. And this is the hope of our bodies.
Does your body seem to pull you toward sin—sexual or otherwise? There is hope because of Jesus, the Word made flesh! Is your body broken or sick? There is hope! Is your body aging? There is hope! Are you on your deathbed? There is hope! Praise Jesus, there is hope!
Where your body fails you, disappoints you, gives out on you, perhaps even seems to betray you, do not turn on it. Where your body seems to draw you away from obedience, do not seek to separate yourself from it mentally or emotionally. Instead, invite the Holy Spirit of Christ to raise your body (see Romans 8:9-11). As oxygen fills your lungs and brings life to your cells, invite the Holy Spirit to fill your body and give new life to your members.
One practical place to go is to Christian spiritual disciplines that have been practiced by Christ-followers for centuries. These serve as a means of drawing our bodies into the life of Jesus. Though they’re called “spiritual” disciplines, these practices involve the body just as much as the spirit.
Christian spiritual disciplines are often misunderstood, so to be clear, they are not…
A way of earning God’s favor (do these disciplines and God will help you overcome sin).
A recipe for results (do these and you’ll find freedom in 30 days or your money back).
A way to beat your body into shape (do these to put your body in its rightful, lowly place).
Instead, I think of Christian disciplines as means to open your body up to the Presence of God who is always available to you. So if you struggle with besetting sin, I encourage you to practice spiritual disciplines, and do so perhaps with a special attention to involving your body in the practice.
So for example…
Prayer: As you pray, perhaps you can kneel or raise your hands to heaven, speak out loud, or whisper to the One who is nearer than your breath.
Fasting: When you feel the hunger pangs of fasting, turn your hunger into a prayer: “I hunger and thirst for your righteousness,” or “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so I thirst for You, O God.”
Silence: In silence, imagine God’s Spirit surrounds your body and trust that no matter what you feel, His nearness is doing your body good.
Scripture meditation: Speak the words of Scripture aloud to yourself, let your ears soak them in, and notice how your body feels as you do. Or when meditating on passages where people encountered Jesus, imagine yourself in the scene physically—what do you hear, see, and feel?
He loves your bodily members and is well acquainted with them already. Allow Him to come close to you bodily. Receive Him. Your body was made for Him.
One more thing: If you live in our area and want to dive deeper into the beauty of God’s heart toward your body, I hope you’re planning on joining us for God, Sex, and the Meaning of Life on Friday, November 10 at Grace Fellowship Church in Timonium. You will be so glad you did!
I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.