Posts tagged ‘Body’

Sick in Spirit When We’re Scared for our Bodies

The COVID-19 outbreak is taking a toll not only on the physical health of millions, but on the emotional health of millions, too. A new survey out from the University of Phoenix shows 4 in 10 Americans are lonelier now than ever before. 71% are worried about the health of a loved one while 61% are concerned about their own health. You combine this with 33% of survey respondents being worried about paying their bills and 27% experiencing depression, and you have the makings of not only a contagious disease pandemic, but a mental health crisis. We may be trying to avoid becoming sick in body through masks, hand washing, and social distancing, but, in the process, we have become sick in spirit.

Early in Jesus’ public ministry, some men bring to Him a paralyzed man, hoping He can heal him. Jesus does. But before He heals his body, He says to this man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9:2). Jesus knows that this man is not only invalid in his flesh, but struggling in his spirit. He needed his sins forgiven.

What Jesus does for this man, Jesus wants to do for every man – and woman. Jesus cares about those who are sick in spirit. This is why Jesus opens His ministry with not only miraculous healing, but profound teaching. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Jesus says, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). It turns out that poverty in spirit is just as important to Jesus as infirmity in body. And so, to those who are lonely, Jesus becomes a friend. To those who are worried, Jesus brings peace. And to those who are depressed, Jesus shows empathy. After all, His soul, too, was once “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38).

Some 1,000 years before Jesus, King David praised the Lord as the One “who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:3). David knew the Lord cared about all of us and all that is us – both our spirits and our bodies. More than that, David had hope in One who, in his day, was still to come come – a God who is spirit, but would one day take on a body to walk among our bodies and heal them and to love us in our spirits and forgive them. God cares so much about spirit and body that He comes in Jesus, who is both spirit and body.

And so, whatever COVID-19 may be doing to you – whether in your spirit or in your body – you have One who is both spirit and body to see you through. And He will.

April 20, 2020 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Target, Transgenderism, and Bathroom Brouhahas

Target

Two weeks ago, when Target announced it would continue “to stand for inclusivity” by welcoming “transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity,”[1] fuel was added to the fire of what was already a raging debate.  “More than 700,000 pledge to boycott Target over transgender bathroom policy,” a headline in USA Today thundered.  The Daily Beast countered the boycott with its headline: “All the Things You Can No Longer Buy if You’re Really Boycotting Trans-Friendly Businesses.”

It’s a bathroom brouhaha.  So where does this big story leave Christians?

In one way, the fight over bathrooms only serves to mask larger questions about gender and identity.  The transgender movement as a whole seems locked into a form of Platonic dualism.  According to this philosophy, each physical form has a corresponding higher non-corporeal ideal.  So, for instance, a chair here on earth corresponds to a perfect non-corporeal chair in a higher realm.  Key to understanding Plato’s theory of correspondence between the physical and the non-corporeal is that the higher non-corporeal form is always determinative of and better than the lower physical form.  This is why Platonism’s final goal is for a person to escape this realm of lower physical forms and ascend to the realm of higher non-corporeal ideals.  Thus, in Platonism, the non-corporeal is always given preference over the corporeal, even as it pertains to our very bodies.  As Socrates, Plato’s mentor, put it:

The soul is immortal, and ‘tis not possession of thine own, but of Providence; and after the body is wasted away, like a swift horse freed from its traces, it lightly leaps forward and mingles itself with the light air, loathing the spell of harsh and painful servitude which it has endured.[2]

For Socrates, the body is a prison of “harsh and painful servitude” to be loathed.  Why?  Because it is physical.  The soul, however, is non-corporeal.  Therefore, the soul is to be preferred to and determinative of the body.

Many in the transgender movement seem to Platonically privilege non-corporeal inclinations over at least some of the clearer markers of physical biology.  People who come out as transgender are, in essence, declaring, “There is another form of me gender-wise than what my biological sex indicates.  My biological sex has subjected me to a ‘harsh and painful servitude,’ above which I intend to rise.” Jane Clark Scharl, in an article for the National Review, puts it well when she writes:

The … rhetoric used to be about liberating us from the moral and cultural limits on bodies, so that we could do whatever we wanted with them. Presumably that didn’t make us happy, because today, it’s about liberating us from our bodies altogether, by telling us that we can define ourselves however we want regardless of our biology.[3]

Being liberated from the body and its biology is a quintessentially Platonic – and, I would add, theologically problematic – notion.

I do understand that certain biological anomalies – anomalies in the sense that they are statistically rare – can occur in certain individuals.  I am also aware that there are questions over whether there are subtle differences in a transgender person’s brain.  But these questions do not negate the fact that gender dysphoria, the oft-cited trigger of transgenderism, is regularly presented and thought of as a conflict between a person’s physical biology and a person’s non-corporeal gender identity.  To quote the Oxford Dictionary: gender dysphoria is “the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex.”  Notice how, according to this definition, gender dysphoria is rooted in “one’s emotional and psychological identity” being in conflict with one’s biological sex.  In other words, barring a worldview that reduces emotions and psychology to nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain, there is a conflict between the non-corporeal part of a person and the physical part of person who experiences gender dysphoria.  To state the matter simply, there is a conflict between what may be referred to as a person’s soul and one’s body. And many people in the transgender movement assume the soul should win this conflict. But the Bible reminds us that even the non-corporeal parts of us are deeply flawed and should not be blindly trusted.  The prophet Jeremiah warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Jesus notes, “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder” (Mark 7:21).  Is it any wonder that the prophets, when addressing human corruption, say things like, “Rend your heart and not your garments” (Joel 2:13)?  For us to address any anxiety – whether it be in our gender, in our sexuality, or even in some medical ailment – we can’t just deal in the physical.  We must consider – and yes, even confront and be converted in – the non-corporeal.

It should be pointed out that it’s not just people in the transgender movement who assume a Platonic view of the physical.  Many Christians do too.  Ask the average Christian which part of a person is more important – the body or the soul – and he will more than likely respond, “The soul.”  But this is not the case, at least according to Scripture.  The fact that the bodies of those who are dead will be raised on the Last Day reminds us that both bodies and souls are important.  After all, both are created by God. The goal for the Christian, then, is never to somehow rise above the body or to let the non-corporeal determine the physical.  Rather, the hope of the Christian is to be eschatalogically redeemed in the body by the resurrection of all flesh.

It is important for Christians to defend and promote a telic view of the body – that the body is fundamental to who we are and is created with a purpose and point.  A person can either steward the body according to the purpose and point for which it was created or work against the purpose and point for which the body was created.  Working against the purpose and point of the body, however, comes with consequences.  Just ask those who suffer all sorts of health problems because they abuse their bodies with, let’s say, junk food rather than fueling their bodies with a balanced diet.  We should not despise our bodies.

This takes us back to Target’s restrooms.  One of the difficulties in demanding that a person use the restroom that matches his or her sex biologically is that there may be a person who identifies as and looks very much like a male going into a female restroom and person who identifies as and looks very much like a female going into a male restroom.  This is sure to make patrons uncomfortable.  On the other hand, stories have already surfaced of predators who are using policies like Target’s to take advantage of unknowing victims.  Depending on how common these horrifying incidents become, Target could find itself regularly grappling with basic issues of of customer safety.  In other words, no matter what restroom policy Target adopts and enforces, it will probably land the company in some kind of legal, cultural, and public relations battle.  Indeed, it seems like the only way to address the restroom needs of a culture where gender is increasingly presumed to be fluid may be to build banks of private unisex restrooms, which could prove terribly costly for businesses that currently offer larger public restrooms.

Though the debate over bathrooms is interesting, ultimately, as Christians, we are called to concern ourselves with how to love all our neighbors – including those who are transgender.  This is why our first questions in this bathroom battle should not be, “Is this policy good for me?”  Or, “How do I feel about transgender people being able to choose their bathroom?”  Instead, our first questions should be, “Is transgenderism good for people?”  And, “Is it good to deny a created physical order for the sake of what is perceived to be a higher non-corporeal understanding of one’s self?” If the answer to these questions is, “No,” we have more than just bathrooms to worry about.  We have people to worry about.

No matter what laws are enacted pertaining to who can use which bathrooms, there will be problems.  But if we devote ourselves to making a winsome, gentle, and truthful case for how God has lovingly, tenderly, and wisely created humanity as “male and female” (Genesis 1:27) that leads people to rejoice in God’s ordering of sex and gender, that strikes me as a better outcome than any restroom regulations could ever offer.

____________________________

[1]Continuing to Stand for Inclusivity,” A Bullseye View (4.19.2016).

[2] Socrates in N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2003), 75.

[3] Jane Clark Scharl, “The New Sexual Ideology Wins Another Skirmish,” National Review (4.22.2016).

May 2, 2016 at 5:15 am 4 comments

Resurrection, It Does a Body Good!

In his book, The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan says of Jesus’ resurrection, “Nobody knew what had happened to Jesus’ body.”[1]  Crossan is well known for asserting that Jesus’ resurrection was not a bodily resurrection, but a series of mystical visions experienced by and subsequently promoted by early Christians.  As for the fate of Jesus’ body after death, Crossan believes it was thrown in a shallow grave where it was quickly scavenged by wild animals.[2]  And Crossan is not alone in his belief.  Incredulous at the notion that a dead person can physically rise, many post-Enlightenment thinkers and theologians will speak of Christ’s resurrection as one that took place merely in the minds or hearts of His earliest followers.

The biblical account of Christ’s resurrection is not nearly so scientifically sterilized as Crossan and others make it out to be.  Whatever these people may believe about Christ’s fate after His crucifixion, the biblical authors believed that Christ rose bodily.  Indeed, this is Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15:

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:20, 42-43)

Paul’s argues that Christ’s bodily resurrection is the first resurrection in a long line of bodily resurrections that will come on the Last Day.  The bodies of believers, once perishable, will be raised imperishable.  The bodies of believers, born into the dishonor of sin, will be raised into the glory of perfection.  The bodies of believers, formerly weakened by the Fall, will be raised in eternal power.  The resurrection, Paul says, is bodily.  And not just Christ’s resurrection is bodily, our resurrections are too.

Jesus Himself speaks to the corporal nature of His resurrection when He appears to His disciples:

While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43)

Jesus will not have His resurrection mistaken by His disciples for a measly apparition.  This is why He invites His disciples to look at and touch His hands and His feat.  This is why He eats a piece of fish.  Jesus has risen bodily.

So why is this even important?  Why make such hay out of whether or not Jesus rose bodily?  Three reasons come to mind.  First, the bodily resurrection of Christ is the linchpin of our faith.  To deny this is to lose everything.  As the apostle Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).  To deny the resurrection of Christ is to deny all of Christ and His work.  There can be no compromise on His resurrection.  Second, the bodily resurrection of Christ affirms the goodness of God’s creation.  God created bodies.  And He cares about bodies.  Christ’s resurrection is proof of this.  For God could not stand by to see His Son’s body wrecked and ruined by a cross.  And God will not stand by to see our bodies and wrecked and ruined by sin.  And this leads to the third reason Jesus’ bodily resurrection is so important.  The bodily resurrection of Christ is a promise our bodily resurrections on the Last Day.  The fact of the matter is this:  our God is just getting going when it comes to resurrections.  One day, graves will be emptied, death will be defeated, and the redeemed of the Lord will cry,  “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55).  What a glorious day this will be.  And this is why I believe in the resurrection of Jesus’ body and in the resurrection of mine.  For such a resurrection is the hope and promise of life everlasting.


[1] John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus (San Francisco:  HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 394.

[2] John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1994), 160.

April 9, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Weekend Extra – It’s Not Yours!

“It’s my body and I can do what I want with it.”  If you’ve parented a teenager, then you may have heard these words before, usually in an attempt to justify some dangerous behavior such as underage drinking, abusing illegal or controlled substances, or engaging in promiscuity.  This phrase has also been wielded to support abortion rights.  I even stumbled across a “Facebook” page of this name in support of those who want to get tattooed and pierced, much to their parents’ chagrin.

“It’s my body and I can do what I want with it.”  As much as some might wish this to be true, it is patently false.  On the one hand, there are some things which are simply physiologically impossible for us to do with our bodies.  We cannot force our bodies to produce healthy tissue rather than tissue which is cancerous.  We cannot stop our bodies from aging.  We cannot compel our bodies to work without rest.  We cannot drink excessively without suffering a hangover.  The bare restraints of nature constrain us to confess that our bodies are not always ours to do with as we please.

On the other hand, there are some things that, even if they are physiologically possible for us to do, are not beneficial.  As the apostle Paul reminds us, “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Excessive drinking, chain smoking, and raunchy promiscuity are examples of such activities which are not beneficial to us, for they hurt our bodies.  And because they hurt our bodies, they dishonor God, for God has created and still cares for our bodies.

In our text for this past weekend, Paul exhorts us, “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). There are a couple of things that are especially notable about this verse.  First, Paul reminds us that our bodies, rather than being used to chase after every hedonistic whim, should be used in worship of God.  That is, all that we say, think, and do with our bodies ought to give glory to the Creator rather than defy His commands and intentions.  For finally, our bodies belong to God:  “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Because things like promiscuity or substance abuse defy God’s commands and intentions, they ought to be eschewed by us.

Second, it is important to notice Paul’s subtle shift from the plural to the singular in this verse:  “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”  There are many bodies worshipping God, but only one living sacrifice to God.  Why is this important?  Because it reminds us that not only do our bodies belong to God, they also belong to each other.  We are to come together to offer a single, unified sacrifice of worship with our lives to God.  This is why Paul continues, “We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5).  We belong to each other!  Thus, any protestation that says “It’s my body and I can do what I want with it” is wrong not only because it’s insufferably bombastic, but also because what I do with my body really does effect others, if not physically, then at least spiritually or emotionally.  And, as a person who is called to love others, I should worship with my body in such a way that not only guards against personal ill effects, but against corporate ill effects as well.

It’s not your body and you cannot do with it as you want.  Though this may sound strange to a culture that bows at the altar of rugged individualism, it is actually a precious truth.  For God’s will for our bodies is always better than our whims for our bodies.  And so we trust Him with our bodies – to the glory of God and in the service of others.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Dr. Player’s ABC!

January 24, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – You’re So Vain, I Bet You Think This Blog Is About You

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in the land is fairest of all?” asks the wicked queen to her magic mirror in the fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.  For years, the answer always came back the same:  “You, my queen, are fairest of all.”  But when a young maiden named Snow White comes of age, the mirror’s rejoinder changes:  “Queen, you are fair, tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you.”   After hearing the mirror’s reply to what was supposed to be a foregone answer to a rhetorical question, the wicked queen spends the balance of the story trying to kill Snow White so that, once again, she can be the fairest in the land.  First, she tries to suffocate Snow White with stay laces.  Next, she tries to kill her with a poison comb.  Finally, the queen offers her the dreaded and infamous poison apple, which lulls her into a deep sleep until, of course, she is wakened by her charming prince.

Being a fairy tale, this story is splashed with an unambiguous principled paint that could perhaps be better nuanced.  Nevertheless, its fundamental moral should still be well taken, for its basic point is this:  The queen’s vanity destroys the queen’s life.  And real life vanity can do to the same to us.  It can sneak and creep into our lives, take root in our hearts, and suffocate our souls.

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we kicked off a new series titled “Fit for Life II,” meant to be a second round of messages and Bible studies on health and wellness to follow up the series of the same name that we did last spring.  As an introduction to this series, I offered what I call “A Theology of the Body.”  People, when talking about and thinking about their bodies, tend to make one of two errors.  They assume either that the body is bad and only a cumbersome drag on a pure soul, or they make the body their “god” and spend exorbitant amounts of money, time, and energy either by feeding its sometimes sinful desires in gluttony or pruning and primping it in vanity.

In truth, the body is neither “bad,” nor is it “god.”  Rather, it is “good.”  It is a good gift of the true God, meant to be faithfully stewarded by us.  This is why we take care of our bodies through diet and exercise – not so that we can drop three dress sizes, or boast six-pack abs, or look ten years younger.  Instead, we take care of our bodies to the glory of God because they are the temples of God, as Paul says:  “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Do you ever treat your body as if it’s bad?  Do you spend endless hours complaining about your aches and pains, your wrinkles and your warts, rather than giving thanks to God for the body with which He has blessed you?  Do you ever treat your body as if it’s god?  Do you linger in front of your mirror, even if it’s not a magic one, just a little too long, obsessed with how others will see you rather than being satisfied with how the true God has made you?  This time of year, many people are still trying to follow through on their resolutions to “lose some weight” or “get in shape.”  Rather than just losing a few inches off your waste line or enlarging a couple of biceps, may you resolve to steward your body to God’s glory in what you eat, in how you exercise, and in everything you say and do.  For this is where true fitness lies.

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

January 17, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,059 other followers


%d bloggers like this: