YOUR BODY MATTERS
It’s time for Body Break with Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, those Canadian health and fitness experts. You know those commercials on TV where a man and woman come on and tell you that all the stuff you’re eating is killing you? That’s them! Did you know that a can of soda contains 5 tablespoons of sugar? Or is it ten? Do you know how much fat there is in a juicy ½ pound burger smothered in cheese, pickles, onions and mushrooms? I don’t care but could I have gravy on the fries?
Hal and Joanne would have a tantrum if we would eat this kind of food in front of them. They would suggest two pounds of carrots, a pound of broccoli, and three bananas, four apples, two oranges and a grapefruit a day…between meals. A meal is a salad with cucumbers and no dressing. Who can live that way? If your body matters to you and your health is at stake then you take these people seriously.
When I say “your body matters” you probably think of Body Break and good health habits. When I say “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” the reaction is similar. Most people think of smoking and claim this verse as a good reason to quit. Few think of overeating in the same way, but by virtue of the principle it fits the logic. However, is this what Paul meant when he implied that our bodies matter?
Corinth was a city obsessed with the worship of sex. A thousand priestesses from the temple of Aphrodite would come down into the city at night and ply their trade. Sexual promiscuity was highly regarded in that culture. Judging by the shows on TV and the stories in the tabloids, the sexual adventures of the stars promotes a similar attitude today.
When Paul said “your body matters” he was addressing this specific issue: sexual immorality. It seems that some Christians in Corinth had taken the message of grace and Paul’s own words to suggest that they had sexual freedom. To this gross misunderstanding, Paul replies with a theology of sex that asks: Is what we do with our bodies of any great spiritual consequence in relationship to Christ?
1. The Lord’s intention for your body
If you were a Christian in Corinth at this time you would be enjoying the truth of God’s grace. “I am forgiven, set free from sin by the cross of Christ, and there is nothing that I need to do to earn my salvation.” You would also conclude that all things are permissible because we are no longer under law. You can even eat meat offered to idols now, as we will see later. Idols are of no consequence to believers.
But what is of consequence for believers? “Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.” (v.12) Apparently this is what Paul told them, ‘Everything is permissible’, and they were using these words in a context beyond what Paul meant. Yes, legalism has no place in the Christian life; legalism is an extreme attempt to do what pleases God. But on the other end of extremism is license – that is, life without any rules. So Paul corrects their vision: “I am allowed to do anything” – but not everything is good for you; “I am allowed to do anything” – but I must not allow myself to become a slave to anything.
If your freedom hurts you and hurts others freedom is no longer a good thing. If your freedom allows you to indulge in certain activities that are addictive and you become a slave to them, you have lost your freedom – you are no longer free anymore. We know what those vices are and you know how they hurt you and others. The things that are not good for you are always enslaving; they tend to be habit-forming. They give a certain degree of pleasure, physically or emotionally and you keep on doing them because that feeling doesn’t last. Each time you think the high will last a little longer but it doesn’t.
Some of the logic for living this way, for experimenting with freedom, came from a dominant philosophy at the time: “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” This saying in Corinth represented bodily appetites. The logic goes like this: the stomach was designed for food and food satisfies the needs of the stomach – therefore it is natural and right to satisfy your need whenever it arises. When you are hungry you go to the refrigerator. It’s not against the law; no one arrests you for that. The same is true, the Corinthians said, of sex. Our bodies are made for sex, so it is natural and right to satisfy those urges as well.
Paul responds to this logic and says they are not the same thing at all. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food – but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (13) The body’s appetite for food is temporary. God has no permanent plan for the stomach and will destroy it someday, but God does have a permanent plan for the body. Our digestive functions certainly have a place in this world. But sexuality is far more profound and has a deeper meaning. Food only nourishes the body; sexuality, according to the Bible, touches the soul, the psyche, our relationships – everything that we are! It is physical and spiritual!
If the Corinthian was saying that the body did not matter he understood his soul to be saved and what he did in the body was of no account. Only the spirit matters. Paul rebukes that and says, the body matters too, otherwise why did Jesus take on flesh and blood? He did it to show us that these bodies matter. These bodies were created for the Lord and they in turn need the Lord to live. Your body matters to Jesus and it throws in his face his intention for it when we abuse it with sexual immorality.
“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” The resurrection is proof that our bodies are not dispensable, that God has a plan for these bodies, that these bodies are raw material for some glorious recreation in the next life. Your body is part of the salvation plan and is therefore valuable to God. You should see it that way too.
2. The parable of marital oneness
“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (15-17)
When I read this passage I see more and more that marriage is a parable for something deeper than procreation. Jesus taught his disciples with stories to explain great mysteries. Marriage is a parable too, a story of intimacy and oneness that cannot be experienced in any other human relationship. What other relationship allows two people to be so intertwined emotionally, physically and even spiritually? Only marriage can do that. It is a parable of oneness.
As believers we are told that we are members of Christ himself, part of his body. We are also told that marriage symbolizes the union between Christ and the Church, his bride. On the one hand, Paul speaks to human couples, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” On the other hand he says, “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:31 & 32). To Paul, marriage is uniquely related to our relationship with Jesus.
David Prior said it this way, “The complete and permanent oneness between husband and wife is a powerful pointer to the relationship, for time and eternity, between Christ and his church. In God’s ideal purpose for marriage, two believers should be so united as persons that ‘two become one’, expressed in the physical oneness of sexual intercourse. Yet even that approximation to the ideal plan of God is, at its very best, only a pointer (and in that sense a sacrament) to the perfect union/marriage between Christ and his church.”
As bread and wine remind us of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, marriage is also an ordinance reminding us of our intimate union with Jesus. Isn’t that what Jesus taught us? “…you are in me and I am in you” (Jn 14:20).
Did you know that the Bible teaches that worship is a form of sexual expression? If sex is the urge to merge, to unite, then it is akin to worship’s desire to merge with God. If we view sex as recreation as the world does, if we see it as a series of one-night stands and casual experience, it is impossible to see the spiritual nature of sex. If marriage is the sharing not only of physical oneness but also dreams, opinions, daily happenings, feelings and true friendship, that is real oneness. Then what is worship? Worship is a hunger to be possessed by God and to have God as friend. Our spirits desiring to worship God cry out, “Lord, come be with me, take me and use me however you choose to use me, just please be in me.” And Jesus responds, “… you are in me and I am in you.”
I have often felt that a kiss is like giving a piece of yourself away, a piece of your soul. Can you imagine then what casual sex does to the soul? To misuse the beauty of sex in premarital sex for self-satisfaction only without the commitment of marriage destroys that beauty. Adultery is cheating on your spouse, idolatry is cheating on God, but adultery is also cheating on God because of what marriage represents – oneness with God.
Os Guinness said this principle is what governs Christian behavior in regards to sex. Why should men not sleep with animals? Why is adultery wrong? Why is homosexuality wrong? Why is premarital sex wrong? Simply because there is no true oneness and therefore there should be no one-flesh either. Joining with a prostitute was specific to the Corinthian situation. Paul could have talked about the good-looking housewife down the road, but in Corinth it was prostitutes. The true problem for them and for any of us who have sex outside of marriage is that there was intimacy without intention, there was communion without commitment.
3. Acting like you own the place
If you buy a house, would you rather buy a house that was pre-owned or one that was rented out? No matter how good a landlord is at keeping up a house, tenants can leave damage that an owner would not. A renter can live in a dwelling and should he or she be careless could care less about the condition of the roof or the paint on the walls or what have you. It is easier to abuse something if it is not yours.
On the other hand, an owner can be careless too. You buy a house that is pre-owned and you may find nails in the oddest places. It seems they never heard of wall hooks specifically for paintings. Their attitude might be, “It’s my house and I will do to it what I want.”
The question is: what is your attitude towards your body? Are you a careless or conscientious renter? Or a careless or conscientious owner? This will become clearer as we look at Scripture.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (v. 18). Rather than test how much freedom a Christian has, Paul urges a hasty retreat from anything that will entangle you. RUN, run like the wind! Don’t walk, don’t linger, don’t look, just run! Picture Joseph in Potiphar’s house being tempted by the promiscuous mistress. What did Joseph do? He fled! So if you are reading a magazine and see something smutty, drop it in the trash. Are you watching TV and you find yourself on “that” channel – you know which one I mean – turn it off.
A person who sits and soaks in these images and indulges the fantasy is sinning against his own body. What does that mean? Take a look at the next verse:
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (v19). Here is why sexual sin is different than other sins. People who believe in Christ have this wonderful privilege of holding God. The majesty and glory of God is in you. We are the temple of God – God dwelling inside of us transforms us into the temple of God.
A story is told of a precocious 12-year-old girl and two country boys who have come to court her visiting cousins. The girl overhears her teenage cousins mock a nun, Sister Perpetua, who has suggested a formula to use in fending off fresh young men in the back seats of cars. "Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!" the nun taught the girls to say. The cousins think such advice hilarious. The girl, however, is moved. The news that she is the dwelling place of God makes her feel as if somebody has given her a present. (Philip Yancey – “Holy Sex – How it ravishes our souls”)
Now when we get careless about sex and think that our bodies are our own to do with, that we have the right to choose, and to seek pleasure wherever we want, we defile the temple. It offers the temple to another. Your body is given to someone other than your spouse or God, it is a wrong union, and basically it is a sin of idolatry. Not only do you throw God out of his temple, but you dehumanize yourself and revert to animal instincts. You become self-centered and self-indulgent and don’t give a rip about morality. When you do this you have abused the house.
Your body – is it yours? “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (v. 19b-20). This is something that every Christian ought to remember every day of his or her life. You have no right to yourself. You have no “right to choose”; abortion is not an option. Sex is not recreation for Christians; it is a precious reminder of the oneness we have with Christ. Jesus paid for our bodies with expensive currency, his own blood, and these bodies are not ours to mess around with.
The functions of our bodies are meant to bring glory to God. Among the amazing things that people can do is this powerful act we call sex. And it calls to mind a holy God who wants and desires that we be a holy people. Honor God with your body.
Your body matters. Let’s return to the question at the beginning of our study: Is what we do with our bodies of any great spiritual consequence in relationship to Christ? The answer is a resounding “YES!” But now it is much more so. This is not just a question of moral purity; this issue with our bodies is about our relationship to God. Sex is as holy as communion in some respects and ought to be treated that way by all of us. It is not to be trivialized in videos or magazines or in coarse joking. If I took the elements of communion and treated them as objects of scorn and ridicule you would be appalled at my behavior.
So I appeal to you who are married to consider that our marital faithfulness to our spouses is paramount in our witness of who God is and what he wants to do in our lives. His holiness is expressed in our healthy marriages.
And I appeal to you who are single to guard your bodies as precious gifts meant only for the one person who is ready to commit to a lifetime of marriage. Anything else is degrading and not worthy of who God made you to be. You are worth far more than one night of passion thrown away.
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Honor God with your bodies.