Monday, 5 March 2007

Being super-spiritual with our bodies

I've been thinking about 1 Cor 7 after a sermon at church. There's clearly some negative feelings about the body going on there in Corinth - something which at first seems very far from us. Perhaps in reaction to the licentiousness of their culture and the reality of a fallen world, some people in the church were attracted to a legalistic, blanket 'ban' on the body. Maybe salvation was essentially being viewed as salvation from the body. The hope was of a liberation from the body and the created world, into a 'spiritual world'. The problem Paul is addressing, then, is a hyper-spiritual view that's coming close to denying the hope of resurrection (see 1 Cor 15).

Now, at first glance, this may seem far from us. For, who is tempted to deny himself sex in his marriage because of the impurity of the body?!!! (1 Cor 7:1-6) Yet, the de-prioritization of 'physical things' may well be seen in other ways amongst us. It's one of those ironies of our evangelical culture that we have been very strong on the literal physicality of the resurrection of Jesus, but have often ended up spiritualizing our own resurrection! Our hope is often expressed in terms of 'heaven', but little in terms of recreation and renewal of the world. In other words, it's salvation without resurrection.

This is, of course, totally unBiblical. Our hope is not to become spirits in heaven, but to be risen like Jesus into a renewed world. But what's the result of this 'super-spiritual' thinking? Well, it can't help but lead to an indifference to the body. This may well mean that we end up thinking that concern for people's bodily needs is unspiritual. Caring for the body is seen as of relative unimportance to 'spiritual things'. We encourage people to seek comfort in a disembodied 'spiritual existence' in 'heaven'. The problem is that when we start going down this road we become more 'spiritual' than Paul, or even than the Spirit himself.