Let me start by saying that one of the biggest deceptions ever to breach the thinking of Christians is the idea that Christianity is concerned only with our spiritual lives. Thinking about our spiritual lives as separate from our physical lives is not only unbiblical, it is literally destructive. (Christopher West rightly points out that splitting our spirit from our body is what death is!)
But for at least the past two to three hundred years, the Western world has increasingly thought this way. In my own life, as I’ve struggled with various sins, I’ve noticed how it can feel like my “spiritual life” is on one track and my bodily sin is running on a parallel track: the two never cross. Can you relate? This is a problem for all of us.
In Romans, Paul writes these important words: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1 ESV, emphasis added).
What is our spiritual worship? Presenting our bodies to God as a living sacrifice.
This shouldn’t surprise us. All the most important parts of life include spirit and body. Your boss is not likely to take “but I was there in spirit” as a good reason to pay you for missing work. If you show up to a friend’s birthday party but your mind is somewhere else all night, the friend is going to feel concerned, hurt, or annoyed. And no one would willingly marry someone who vows to give you their heart while committing their body to someone else.
Human beings aren’t parts. We’re made to be whole.
Your self is not spirit or body, nor one of these more than the other. Your self is spirit and body.
All of this brings me back to where I started this post: one of the most beautiful statements of Jesus that is also one of the most meaningful prayers we can pray.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, he broke bread with his disciples and gave it to them saying, “This is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19). His disciples didn’t know what he meant at the time, but they soon would. These weren’t just words. He was speaking about what he was about to go through for their sake.
This Lent (and in your sanctification/recovery journey as a whole), think of Jesus’ words as his wedding vows to you. He is giving himself fully to you, holding nothing back.
This Lent (and throughout your sanctification/recovery journey), can you say back to him, “This is my body, given for you”?
You can say it in the moment of temptation, in the moment of faithfulness, in the moment of loneliness, in the moment of confusion. You can say it when sick, when healthy, when weary, when energetic. You can say it at church, when you kneel, when you life your voice to sing. You can say it at work, when you teach students trigonometry, when you feed the poor, when you touch the hand of a neighbor in distress, when you treat others with kindness.
Jesus, you have made me a spirit-body self. Both my heart and my flesh cry out for you, the living God. Jesus, you have given me all that you are, including your body—unto death and resurrection. One day, you will come for me in the flesh. So I say to you this day, Lord: This is my body, given for you.
I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. What strikes you most about this post?
Make sure to check out A Pledge for Your Body on the Becoming Whole Podcast.
Josh, what a beautiful prayer. And one I especially appreciate during this Lenten season.
Josh, thank you for the deeply insightful and meaningful reflection. The theology is spot-on and stirs up even deeper reflection on the mystery of holy communion. It will be on my mind a good deal especially in this season.
Great words. One of the many beautiful things about Eastern Orthodoxy is that worship includes the entire body. This helps to put one’s entire life on that right path. A major group of heresies that were faced in the early church were called Gnosticism. Gnostics believed in this separation of body and soul, much like many in the Western Church do today.