In five months I turn 50. Pondering that big, fat number makes me consider that this aging body of mine could be in much better shape. Dr. Justice, our family practitioner, tells me that my blood pressure is climbing. So is my blood sugar. And my cholesterol. I can tell by my belt that the weight is on the rise as well. Too bad all this talk of elevation doesn’t mean I’m more spiritual — just a little closer to the resurrection. OK, bad joke!
Seriously, I’ve resolved to spend these next five months getting healthier in anticipation of this 50-year milestone. It’s an important resolution for me. I confess that for much of my Christian life I’ve tended toward the cerebral. I love my Bible and my books and my thinking and writing. My career in the world of publishing has only abetted this intellectual bent and the sedentary lifestyle that follows from my pursuit of truth and understanding.
That quest isn’t bad in and of itself, but I recognize in myself how too often the body is neglected if not denigrated by such an approach to life and faith. That just won’t do. We’re not dualists who exalt the mind at the expense of the body, who praise the rational while despising the material. The Bible has taught us to hold both together in an interrelated, inseparable whole. Doesn’t the Incarnation show that God desires embodied truth? Word made flesh?
Before the apostle Paul said, “[renew] your minds,” he insisted, “present your bodies” (Romans 12:1, 2). That is a good message for me. This body of mine should be cherished and disciplined (Ephesians 5:29; 1 Corinthians 9:27). It is a vessel of honor and praise, just like my mind: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20). It is my good hope that I will do this better than I often have.
Paul says it beautifully in his letter to the Philippians:
For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death (1:19, 20).
Of course, as I consider this aging body of mine, I’m reminded that however much due diligence and respect I give to it, however much I find that proper balance between body and mind and God is magnified, this body is destined still for dust. But hope endures, as resurrection teaches. Again, Philippians:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself (3:20, 21).
I write all this on the physical body in order to make a larger point too: that what is true of individual bodies is truer still of the body of Christ. The hope we hold out for the first should also be held out for the last. Here in between our “One Body” issue of the Bible Advocate and the upcoming “One Hope” BA, I’m concerned that our denominational focus on inward faith and truth too often detracts from the necessary nourishment of The Body, the Church, and our churches. This visible dimension of faith and truth is essential too.
What does the doctor have to say about this body, this bride of Christ? Are there elevated signs that our health is at risk? Are we resolved to discipline and cherish it to the honor and glorify of its Maker and Husband? And most of all, are we still holding faithfully to that remarkable hope Paul outlined to the church in Ephesus: that God is really bringing the body of Christ to “the fullness of Christ” (4:13)?
Paul speaks hopefully of this body and bride again in the next chapter:
“that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (5:27).
As we consider the health and hope of our own bodies, let us not forget the health of The Body and its great hope: a glorified body!