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 Corinthians 6:19-20)
I was pleasantly surprised at the level of interest I received in last month’s article, Hiding in the Shadows. Many of us need to hear God’s call to emerge from the shadows of our shame and be the people he made us to be. I imagine a good many of us could identify the source of those things in our lives that restrict us from experiencing the “abundant life” Yeshua offers (see John 10:10). While we may struggle to be free, we understand, at least in our heads, that “the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) has done everything necessary to release us from shame’s oppression. That being the case, why do we continue to struggle? How could it be the “redeemed of the Lord” (Psalm 107:2) often find themselves pulled back into the shadows. Is the power of darkness stronger than we care to admit?
I would like to propose what I think is one of the main causes for our lack of freedom. It’s something underlying much of what I shared last month but didn’t take the time to explore. As I discussed in last month’s article, responding to God’s call is a call to reject misdirected shame. That’s the shame you or others put on you. These might be societal standards of beauty or success or the expectations of parents. You might even be suffering under impossible standards put in place by none other than yourself. Until we allow our lives to be seen through the lens of God’s standards alone, we will be manipulated by the harshest of taskmasters. I think most of us get that. We know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, feeling depressed because of our physical condition, level of intelligence, work position, who our friends are – the list goes on and on. We know we shouldn’t, but we do it anyway. But this is still not the root of unnecessary shame.
Beneath the surface of much or our unnecessary shame is a deep-seated suspicion about our humanness. We doubt our validity as human beings. This is the case for believer and unbeliever alike. The atheist’s and agnostic’s naturalistic, evolutionary sense of being is based on impersonal chance. While unbelievers may not identify their discomfort with self as shame per se, this profound lack tells them they are nothing more than cosmic accidents. Many believers don’t fare much better. What makes our shame of self so insidious is we don’t know we are doing it. This is because we have accepted the phony distinction between an ideal, supposedly real self and a substandard earthly, supposedly not-so-real, perhaps illusionary, physical self.
When God created human beings, making us in his image, what did he create? He didn’t create intangible, so-called souls, and stick them in disposable packages called bodies. He made people. And people are comprised of physical and spiritual aspects. And these aspects were not designed to be in tension. The problem with human physicality is not that it exists, but that it is tainted by sin, doomed to die due to the curse. But sin and the curse don’t only affect our bodies. The unseen aspects of our humanness are equally affected. And what aspects of our existence have been rescued and redeemed by the Messiah? Every aspect, including our bodies, will be transformed at the resurrection.
In spite of the grief our bodies give us and will continue to give us until Yeshua returns, they are part of God’s ingenious, intentional design. The human body is not a mistake. It is not substandard. It is not even a nuisance (or doesn’t have to be). Our physicality is our God-given interface with the real world. You may have never thought of this, but we engage the spiritual aspects of life through our bodies. We read and hear Scripture with our eyes and ears, we come to God through other human beings with whom we engage with our five physical senses. Even the activity that brings us into existence in the first place is a grand and good wonderous reflection of God’s grand design. Human physicality, including sexuality, is not something to endure, but to celebrate, as long as it is expressed within the boundaries of God’s Word. The reason why sexual sin is so serious and destructive is because it is a sin against our own body, which is to be the residence of God’s Holy Spirit.
The only way to glorify God in our bodies is to stop rejecting our physicality as a substandard, contra-spiritual, abnormality. Instead, accepting our whole self as God’s intentional design, our sin nature notwithstanding, we can begin to live out our lives to their greatest extent, free from unnecessary shame.