Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bodies in the Body of Christ

A girl wears a bikini at church camp and it’s considered inappropriate, so instead of singling her out, the camp directors decide that everyone will wear t-shirts at the pool.

A girl is on mission trip and is repeatedly asked to change clothes since her sleeveless t-shirts and shorts do not abide by the clothing policy.

A boy at camp decides to wear short shorts at camp in celebration of 80′s day. He and his friends laugh while some of the counselors roll their eyes.

A pastor at a local church wears a skirt and top to worship since the worship leaders have decided not to wear robes over the hot summer. A few congregants comment that her skirt length is not appropriate.

How do we consider bodies as members of the body of Christ? I’ve been thinking about this for a long time since our faith is radically incarnational. God took on flesh. God was born, experienced the best and worst of human existence, and then suffered a horrible death, but that was not enough to conquer God who rose from the dead, body and all. God not only created us to be beloved children; God loved and valued us enough – desired to be in relationship with us enough – to humble God’s self to life in a body.

So what do we think of these precious bodies that God values so much? As Americans, it seems like we spend most of our time objectifying bodies, especially female bodies but male bodies more and more. Bodies are seen in everything from works of art to crass commercials. Bodies are washed, clothed, cared for, loved. Bodies are dirtied, humiliated, stripped, hated.

So what is a faithful follower of Christ supposed to do? Here is what I’ve discerned so far:
1) Respect Bodies – Respect other bodies’ needs. See their needs as no different from and just as important as our own.
2) Heal Bodies – All bodies deserve to be healthy and whole. Persons should have access to good food, water, shelter, and medical care to ensure their body’s health. Touch is a powerful remedy in itself; there’s a reason it’s included in healing services.
3) Love Bodies – Handle and observe bodies with love. I feel a surge of compassion when I see the very young and very old struggle to walk, stand, kneel. I admire the grace and prowess of athletes and youth. And when a body needs love – in the form of a hug, handshake, or gentle touch on the shoulder – I pray I might have the grace to offer what I, too, need.

In baptism we use water in the ancient act of washing a body. In communion we gather bodies around a common table to learn how we can all receive the nourishment we need. God pours out grace in ways our bodies recognize and with which our souls resonate.

There are things only having a body can teach us. Think of learning to ride a bicycle. When I try to describe the intricate art of sitting, balancing, peddling, racing over pavement or dirt trails, it sounds ridiculous. Even watching my son as he learns to stand and, eventually, walk gives me new appreciation for the skills I’ve taken for granted for years.

So it’s no surprise to me that God teaches us through our bodies, too. And maybe, as we give and receive respect and healing and love, we’ll be better at living as the Body of Christ, too.

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