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Toward Wholeness Blog

On the 4th day of Christmas: The Gift of life “in the body.”

It’s hard to believe the amount of shame associated with the body that has been inflicted on people ‘in the name of Jesus.’ People hate their appearance, their sexual desires, and are even deeply suspicious of enjoying decent food and drink, or a run around the lake, and they learned to be this way from a deformed version of Christianity. This goes way back, but not to Jesus. It’s roots are in a perversion of Christianity that was commingled with a philosophy called dualism, which stated that if it’s physical, and especially if it’s physical and pleasurable, it must be bad. I have good news for you on this fourth day of Christmas: Your body and it’s pleasures are gifts from God. Merry Christmas!

We’re told in Romans 8 that God “gives life to our mortal bodies.” Theologians have broken down the meaning of the word “life” and “mortal” and “body,” and have, too often in their micro assessments, missed the forest for the trees because this passage contains a simple statement: God cares about human bodies, and so should we. A few important things flow from this:

Enjoy the life of the senses with gratitude, which means things like beauty, taste, scent, touch, exercise, sleep, and the all-around beauty of God’s creation, including the flora and fauna God has made. Of all people, those living out from the stream of God’s activity should be, in the best meaning of the word, ‘sensual.’ Everything we receive that fortifies and fills us up, we receive from the senses. Ironically, we’re told that the gifts of God are intended to lead us to gratitude, and yet it’s often the Christ-followers that vilify God’s gifts. Even the Bible warns against the “Do not handle! Do not touch! Do not taste!” mentality because the authors knew how destructive religious legalism can be. Far better to really taste your coffee, with gratitude for it’s existence, it’s producers and baristas, and it’s health benefits, than simply mindlessly consume, or avoid it (or other gifts) altogether because of some sort of fear-based mindset.

Don’t let sensual experiences become idols. The danger here is that we look to these gifts to provide more than they’re able. Sex, or drink, or clothes, or mountain recreation, become everything - our very source of fulfillment. Then, when life gets hard, we look to these gifts, demanding that they be there for us, and if they’re not, we seek them anyway. It’s called alcoholism, or pornography, or sexual abuse, or endless shopping, or binge watching - all in search of the pleasures of the body, which really only work as pleasures and gifts when they’re held in proper proportion. If we try to make more of them than they are, they become destructive taskmasters.

Steward, and Let Go. I have a friend in his eighties who still skis or mountain bikes almost every day, and often has more stamina than people 50 years younger. I admire him, and hope to be him when I’m eighty, but I’ll add this: long ago, I’ve stopped making a formula out of health and long life. Yes, steward the body! Eat well, move a lot, get rest. But know that cells mutate, accidents happen, and parts wear out. If you demand a level of health that precludes aging, you’ve created a fantasy that will wreck you. Enjoy the days you have, with the health you have, fully! And, know that your days are numbered. Far from making me depressed, this news makes me more intent than ever to both enjoy and steward the gifts of the body, and to accept my increasing limitations as OK, because there are many gifts in this life in addition to the body.

In 2021, my hope is that each of us will marvel at our life “in the body,” stewarding our health well, while also accepting inevitable limitations gracefully, which we can do because of the other gifts, including the gift of day five. See you tomorrow, especially if you subscribe!

If you want to catch up, the first three days of Christmas are here:

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