Sunday, February 20, 2011

Faith and Bodily Life

Prompted mainly by recent reading (especially Willard and Wright) I have been thinking about how vitally important it is that we grasp the reality of the spiritual world.  Even saying 'spiritual world' implies something other, but I don't know what else to call it.

First we must see the very physical nature of our faith.  As Willard points out,
"the foundational facts and teaching of the Christian religion essentially concern the human body.  The incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Christ are bodily events." (Spirit of the Disciplines, p 30)
The resurrection of Christ was the triumph of his flesh-and-blood-and-spirit life over sin and death. Thus it is not some disembodied spirit we worship, but the resurrected and triumphant person of our Lord.

The physical nature of our faith doesn't stop with Jesus, but has everything to do with how we live.  Whatever did Jesus mean when he said "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10) if not life to our whole beings, including our bodies?  As Wright states, "We are saved not as souls but as wholes" (Surprised by Hope, p199)  And as Willard points out, the transformation of our selves through the life of Christ is a process which involves the training of our physical bodies.

This is all very good news indeed, since most of our daily life concerns our physical existence.

Secondly we must see that the unseen parts of our existence and spirituality are no less real because we cannot see them.  Rather than elaborate, I will let you ponder that for a moment, and consider its outworking in your own life.

This ties into a passage I heard today, 1 John 4:5-6:
They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us."
I've been realizing lately how sometimes the ways I think and act make little sense to others because I am assuming a different reality than they.

Thanks be to God for providing this new reality which fits so well with who we were made to be, this new life that in its fullness transforms every part of us!


  1. As I read through my "One Year Bible" I have been in the book of Leviticus, and I'm realizing for maybe the first time, or just the first time in a while, how physical the role of the priest was. And how gross, but anyway, they didn't just walk around in linen and pray and burn incense. They were working hard, with all that killing and burning and such. This is just to say that I get it in my head that ministry or faith is another realm, and it's really very immediate.

  2. Yes, this is a good point and example. God used the laws and ceremonies of the temple to teach us, and he did so in a way we can understand - very tangibly (almost, it seems, too tangibly, right?)

    Jesus's ministry was like this too - touching the lepers and healing the blind, the sick, the dirty, the outcast, and the demon-possessed. Bringing healing and working within the often messy context of bodily life.

  3. Your post also reminds me of the essential "meaningfulness" of what we so often perceive as mundane actions. I have been reminded in very practical ways recently of the spiritual reality implicit in the physical act of sleeping - we can use our sleep to God's glory by getting enough so as to be rested & alert in the day to come, which will help us as we seek to love, to be patient, to guard against temptation, etc. We can go to sleep in an attitude of thankfulness - including thankfulness for the rest that God has designed our bodies to paritipate in. Whether we're writing papers or washing dishes or going on a walk or battling sickness, each physical reality we participate in has its corresponding spiritual reality, even if we don't realize it. But I think the mroe we realize it, the more we will find ourselves 'practicing the presence of God' and experiencing fellowship with Him.

    Thanks for the blog entry my friend!

  4. Yes, this is so true!

    I've been thinking about this lately, and your comment is a good reminder. I've been finding both how hard (hour by hour) and how easy (all we have to do is turn to God!) it is to do in practice (if that makes any sense!).