Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Body is for the Lord

The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. [1Co 6:13b]

But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. [1Co 6:17]

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. [1Co 6:19-20]

Immorality? What does this mean? The word is actually porneia (por-ni'-ah) meaning illicit sexual intercourse, adultery, fornication (sex outside marriage), [the practice of] homosexuality, [the practice of] lesbianism, intercourse with animals, etc.

We must define the word, because much that is porneia in our society is accepted, promoted, and transmitted to us seamlessly through television, movies, music, and the Internet. Simply put we define the word because its meaning may not be so obvious to us nowadays. Our souls have become dull to porneia from overexposure.

St. Paul is dealing with a situation in the Corinthian congregation where terrible porneia is being tolerated. Not only does the congregation need to come to its senses and deal with the problem according to Christ, they need to be reminded just what the body's relationship to Christ really is.

The body is for the Lord. The Lord is for the body. Our very identity as Christians is bound up with the body of Jesus Christ - the very body that suffered, died, rose to life, is seated at the right hand of God, and that shall come again in glory to judge the world. The body of the Son of God Himself. We who believe have been baptized into His body - buried through baptism into His death, raised to His new life. Our very humanity has undergone a change - a healing - by being united with the humanity of Jesus Christ. We have died and risen with Him in Baptism. He has poured out His Spirit on us in the Pentecost of our Chrismation/Confirmation. He has fed us with His own flesh and blood in the Eucharist, that we may live in Him and He in us, that we may not die - even when we do die! - but live to God forever. This is the story of each and every Christian. We are changed. We are new. We are of one Body with the Lord. Ans thus we are Christians.

Therefore our bodies are for the Lord. Having passed over from the old to the new in this way, it is horrifying to think that we should take what is holy (our bodies) and hand it back over to spiritual harm and bondage again. But this is what happened in the Corinthian congregation. And this sort of thing is what we are tempted with. No one is tempted with anything unique, but all are tempted with what is common to mankind. We are tempted to take what Christ has redeemed - our bodies - and to return to Egypt, so to speak, to feed our flesh with acts of porneia or images of porneia or ideas of porneia, etc.

That this is so speaks to a critical issue: our power of desire and our self control. If we go back to the beginning, to Christ's preaching in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) we can see that He is constantly aiming at our hearts, our power of desire and choice, and our use of self control. It can be a demoralizing read! If we read it with an open heart the light of truth can really hurt the eyes, so to speak - or rather the reality of our situation can really hurt our pride. But after a while our spiritual eyes adjust, the pride melts a bit, and we can begin to accept ourselves for who we are. And we begin to accept that this is how God sees us - and this moved Him to come down from heaven, to teach us, to die for us, and to rise again for us and to save us in the Church - ultimately to grant to us grace that can change us if we wish to be changed.

Our bodies are for the Lord, and the Lord for our bodies. We who have become united with the Lord in the Church are one Body with Him [Eph 1]. And we are one spirit with Him. We are temples - bodily churches - of the Holy Spirit. Our calling is different than what you will find in the world. We have been given a kingdom of the heart - of sincerity, of love, of faith, of hope. It's not a faraway reality, but interwoven within us. The challenge of each Christian is to set the heart after Christ - not only to believe, but to meet the daily challenge of belief. That means self-control on the one hand, and perseverance in love on the other. And let prayer center us. Amen.

1 Corinthians 6 (RSV)


Jake said...

Well said, Ben. The devil is crafty and despite defining the terms all too often the response when one even attempts to approach a brother or sister in Christ about this sin, regardless of how gentle one attempts to be, is that sad refrain "Did God really say?" The majority have been taught that God's Word is just the words of men and that their own feelings and thus their words and choices are a movement of God in their hearts. The blind are leading the blind ...

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Benjamin Harju said...

Something said by Met. Anthony of Sourozh in a talk about Confession comes to mind here: if you were able to meet Jesus during His earthly ministry, would you like Him? Would you want to follow Him?

Considering that point, I make another: What we have now is this same Jesus whom God has made King and Lord of all, and all people will be held accountable to Him. Only His kingdom will last, and what is not of His kingdom will perish in fire. That is, despite all the hype and allure out there, there's only one true reality. Wouldn't you want to be a part of it? Wouldn't you want to become of citizen of it? Wouldn't you want to learn its precepts and make it part of you?

I wish people would think in those terms, because it could be the beginning of faith for some people.