Body and Soul
God saved your soul, but he cares about your body too. What does that mean for believers?
Perhaps the most neglected area of our Christian walk is the very thing we walk in - our bodies. We all have one. We all naturally protect and love them (Eph 5:29). Yet, we Christians often neglect our bodies to focus on the 'more important' issues of the heart, or soul. To be sure, from the heart flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23), all our sin (Matt. 15:19) and therefore, we need not fear those who can kill our bodies, but rather him who can destroy both soul and body (Matt. 10:28). Put simply, you need to get your heart right with the God who created your body! (Ps. 139:13)
But your soul and your body aren't as diametrically opposed as we'd like to think, in fact God sees them as necessarily connected. Take, for example, how tired and impatient you get the day after an all-nighter with your mates. But wait ... isn't patience a 'spiritual' issue (Gal. 5:22)? You see, there is a connection between your body and your soul. They can both affect each other. The following are two principles to help shape the way you handle your physical body:
1. Your body isn't yours
'Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.' (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
If you believe in Jesus and follow him, your heart has been awakened, born again, and filled with the Holy Spirit (John 3:6-8). You are no longer your own. You were bought out of slavery to sin, and redeemed through the cross of Christ. All of you was bought, not just some of you - your soul and body, spiritual and physical. That's why, in the new heavens and the new earth, you'll be sinless and you'll receive a new body.
This means we need to treat this 'jar of clay' as valuable, precious and worth keeping healthy. In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, the Apostle Paul says not to give our body to anyone (through sexual immorality), or to be enslaved to anything (food), because God owns your body.
2. Jesus has set you free
'"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything. "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food" - and God will destroy both one and the other.' (1 Cor. 6:12-13)
The imagery of slavery and freedom is used throughout the Bible. The Israelites in the Old Testament typify the salvation of Jesus in the New. Their exodus from Egypt modelled the exodus we now experience from sin (Rom. 6:22). As Jesus says, 'if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed' (John 8:36).
Because of the freedom we've experienced in Christ, we're now called to live free. We need not be 'dominated by anything' - Christ is your master! No enslavement to meeting cultural expectations of how we should look. No enslavement to junk food. No enslavement to tobacco. No enslavement to our body shape. No enslavement to laziness. No enslavement to caffeine. We need not run to these things for a 'hit' or a 'high' - they now serve us.
One of the motivations for remaining free is mission. If you want to reach all different types of people, you need to be free from the 'I just have to have it' mentality that drives many of our decisions. This desire to be 'free for mission' leads Paul to say 'I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified' (1 Cor. 9:27).
3. Exercising the principles
These principles should help us navigate how we treat our bodies. There is freedom in how these are applied, and a specific 'how to' model of handling your body could prove more harmful than helpful, because each one of our bodies in unique (an incredible thought in itself!). Let me give a couple of examples of how the above might apply to you.
For those who love physical activity: If you have no problem working on your body, consider that 'while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come' (1 Tim. 4:8). While working on your outer strength, you should ask God to make you a young man or woman stronger on the inside than the out. When building your body, or toning your body, you should recognise that you are perfectly accepted by God because you've come to Jesus. Fight the temptation to exercise simply for the glory of man, and not the glory of God.
For those who hate physical activity: I know the feeling, exercise can hurt. Perhaps structured workouts aren't for you, thankfully God gives us freedom. But glorifying God in your body, because God owns it, is still a call to you. Fight the temptation not to take care of your body because of laziness, gluttony or not wanting to do something difficult.
For all: Hardly anything worth doing is easy, and looking after our bodies certainly isn't easy. But the way to combat our addiction to the easy life is to know the freedom of Jesus, that you have been set free from slavery, bought with a price and can now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, 'glorify God in your body'.