How to Use Your Body for Christ
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2011 9 Aug
Editor's Note: This article summarizes the practical applications of Matthew Anderson's recent book, Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith, (Bethany House, 2011).
The body God made for you is both the place of your personal presence and a temple where the Holy Spirit lives within you. Your body – just like your soul – is holy. So it’s important to learn how to use it well when living out your faith.
Here’s how you can embody your faith by using your body for Christ:
Recognize the spiritual value of your body. Your body has spiritual, as well as physical, value. It’s a gift to you from God, meant for you to offer back to Him in worship by using it to glorify Him. The way Jesus used His human body on during His ministry on Earth shows the spiritual importance of it: His incarnation affirmed the body’s original goodness, His death showed its need for redemption, and His resurrection showed that there’s real hope for its restoration. Through Jesus’ bodily sacrifice on the cross for your sins, He gave himself for you. Decide to thank Him by using your body for Him.
Trade pursuing cultural standards of attractiveness with working with God to sanctify your body. Too many people waste valuable time and energy trying to make their bodies look like what their culture considers attractive, from buying certain types of clothes and makeup to dieting and working out – and even undergoing plastic surgery. Rather than focusing just on what your body looks like, focus on how healthy it is – both physically and spiritually. Take care of your body’s physical needs by eating nutritious foods, drinking plenty of water, and getting regular exercise and enough sleep. But also pay attention to how God wants you to grow spiritually by changing the way you use your body in your daily life. Derive your sense of personal identity from your relationship with Jesus (which is eternal) rather than from your body’s appearance (which is temporary.
Let your body teach you humility. Living inside a physical body limits your life. Your body confines you to a particular time and place and gives you certain physical abilities but not others, so you won’t be able to do everything you may like to do. Moreover, your body can become sick or injured, and it will age and eventually die – all of which further limit what you can do. Keep in mind that God has made you out of dust, and to dust you’ll eventually return. Let that knowledge motivate you to seek and rely on God’s help as you live each day. Instead of trying to run your own life with your limited power, invite God to lead you and work through you with His unlimited power.
Let your body’s dependence on natural resources motivate you to take care of creation. Your body needs food, water, air, clothing, and shelter. When you keep in mind that you’re dependent on those natural resources for your body’s ongoing existence, you can see the importance of God’s call to take good care of His creation on Earth. Do whatever you can to help the environment, from conserving the amount of energy you use to recycling. Since human beings are at the center of God’s creation, do your best to take care of other people, too. Treat vulnerable people – such as children, the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and those who are oppressed through injustices like sex trafficking – well, and help meet their practical needs when you can. Work to educate others about the value of human life and how it should impact decisions about abortion, euthanasia, and suicide.
Look in the right place for stability and to express yourself. Rather than using tattoos, piercings, or other ways of marking your body for a sense of stability, turn to God’s promises in the Bible for that. Instead of using body markings as a way to express your unique personality and core values, do so by discovering and fulfilling God’s unique purposes for your life.
Follow God’s design for your sexuality. Ask God to help you avoid sexual sin, which harms your soul and dishonors the presence of the Holy Spirit within your body.Choose to either be celibate or have sex within marriage, because those are the two options that God – who created sex – sets forth as the only healthy choices. Seek healing if you’re struggling with sexual issues such as pornography, masturbation, homosexuality, adultery, or fornication. Encourage other Christians to live sexually pure lives in order to be healthy and honor God with their bodies.
Learn from pain. When your body suffers physical pain from an illness or injury, ask God to show you the purpose of that pain and help you learn from it whatever He wants you to learn. Keep in mind that pain points to the world’s brokenness in its fallen state and to God’s goodness as His power is revealed through people’s weaknesses. Look to Jesus as your ultimate role model of how to handle suffering. When He suffered, Jesus didn’t let his pain overwhelm Him or cause Him to ignore other people’s needs. Instead, Jesus reached out through His pain with compassion to help others. Ask Him to give you the strength to respond to your own suffering in the same way. When you’re facing death, thank God that you can face it without fear, because of Jesus’ bodily sacrifice that made your salvation possible.
Use your body for spiritual disciplines. Present your body to God as a living sacrifice in worship to Him. For example, you can practice fasting with your stomach, praying with your mouth and ears (to talk and listen to God), purity with your eyes (avoiding looking at things that lead to sin, such as envy or lust), and service to others in God’s name with your hands. Be sure to celebrate the sacrament of baptism if you haven’t already, using your body to express your new life in Christ. Celebrate the sacrament of communion often, since using your body to eat and drink as you remember Christ’s bodily sacrifice for you is a powerful way of connecting with Him.
Meet face to face with your brothers and sisters in Christ. While it’s valuable to have access to online and television worship services when you can’t attend worship in person (such as if you’re sick and must stay home), it’s much better to meet with other believers face to face to worship together, so make an effort to do so as much as possible. In person, using your body language and facial expressions, you all can communicate fully.
Adapted from Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith, copyright 2011 by Matthew Lee Anderson. Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Bloomington, Mn., www.bethanyhouse.com.
Matthew Anderson blogs at www.mereorthodoxy.com and firstthings.com/blogs/evangel. He graduated from Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute in 2004 and spent a year studying at Oxford University. Matthew works at The Journey, a large interdenominational church where he conducts research and develops curriculum. He and his wife live in St. Louis, Missouri.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: August 9, 2011