When we’re struggling with unwanted sexual attractions or behaviors, it can feel like we’re struggling against our bodies. But the early Christian church was very careful to recognize that our bodies are not the enemy, and we need to be just as careful.
The incarnation (that God became flesh, that God assumed a human nature and became a man in the form of Jesus Christ.) turned the ancient world on its head: For Jews and Greeks alike, the idea that the Word became flesh was absurd. For many in this time, it was believed that physical matter was lowly, even intrinsically bad.
This belief system led some people to treat the body harshly, applying strict rules around all things physical. It led others to assume that it doesn’t really matter what we do with our bodies because our spirits are our true essence, and only our spirits can live forever.
You can see these same belief systems at work today. Those who believe there are right and wrong ways to act sexually often live with great suspicion to their bodies, resorting in setting up strict moral codes and working hard on behavior management, with little to no regard to the deeper matters of the heart.
- Avoid sexual temptation at all costs.
- If you’re a Christian you should never ever watch an R rated movie.
- Everyone should have internet filters and accountability software set up on their computers.
- You should never be alone with someone of the opposite sex.
- If you lose your virginity before your wedding night, you’ll never experience God’s best for your marriage.
On the other hand, those who believe there is no right and wrong when it comes to sex (as long as you have consent) often treat the body as a tool, an accessory for pleasure or self expression, but little more.
- I only have one body, so I better take care of it. (Notice the distinction between “I” and “it.”)
- Sex is just two bodies giving pleasure to each other, it doesn’t have to mean anything.
- There’s nothing wrong with violent sex as long as you have consent.
- Sex is “assigned at birth.” (Your physical body has no real meaning.)
- Sex reassignment surgery is so your outside matches the “real you” on the inside.
- Any two people can have a baby, regardless of marriage or gender.
Christianity differs from both these ways of viewing the body. It is not overly suspicious of the body nor does it assume the body is an accessory that can be manipulated. Christianity teaches that to be human is to be a being who is both spirit and body at the same time.
The incarnation of Jesus proclaims that God cares deeply for the human body, so much so that he himself became flesh in order to redeem every part of our humanity–not just our spirits, but our spirits and bodies too.
Looking at the life of Jesus, we see him healing people’s bodies of all manner of illness and disability. We even see him raising people from the dead. Looking at the death of Jesus, we see him giving up his body in order to save ours from the corruption of sin and death that had taken hold on humanity.
Looking at Jesus’ resurrection, we see him overcoming the final enemy of the human body–death. And looking at the ascension of Jesus, we see him elevating his human body to the right hand of the Father!
I can almost imagine the angels in heaven looking at the Word made flesh, resurrected and glorified to rule as one with the Father, then looking to the earth to see human beings with awe and wonder at God’s great love for this spirit-body creature he has made and gone to such great lengths to redeem.
Friends, God loves you, and this means he loves your body!
So back to the beginning of this post: When you struggle with unwanted sexual attractions and behaviors, it can be tempting to feel as though you need to battle against your body. But the truth is, as you resist temptation you are fighting for your body! Join Jesus in this. He too is for your body!
I invite you to consider paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6:13 to yourself in front of a mirror. Look at yourself and repeat, aloud and slowly:
The Lord is for my body, and my body is for the Lord.
I’d also invite you to listen in to a conversation with Linda Noble and Linda Stewart, authors of Before the Sex Talk, that I recorded with them last year. We dive into the foreign (but true) concept of what it means to be a “body self.”
Question: In what ways do you notice signs in your life that suggest you might be more affected by the culture’s idea of what it means to “have” a body, rather than by God’s view that you “are” your body?
Josh, this is so well stated and perfectly timed. It touches me to see how fighting for my body is the correct response to my gratitude for what Christ did for me. And somehow stating first the way our culture can minimize God’s love for His creation just touched my soul. Thank you, Josh, for sharing your insights. As always, this is so much deeper than sexual practices. My struggle is with too much attraction to food and this gives me additional encouragement to fight for the body God loves — my body. Thank you.