As a way to continue the conversations in The Biola Hour, we've invited Sam Gassaway to blog her thoughts after each episode. This is a response to Episode 20 on Outside-In Spirituality, found here. Feel free to interact with Sam's thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter (@sgkay47).
Unless you are reading this in the far future as a brain in a jar, you probably have a body. It might be different, corrupted, diseased, broken or failing, but you have a vessel by which your mind and soul communicate and interact with the world. You probably have skin and bones and organs; and at some point in your life, you’ve thought about things your body wants that you know will hurt your soul.
We are primarily given two metaphors for the self in scripture. Both are penned by Master-of-Metaphors Paul, who calls the body both a vessel and a temple.
For the sake of relevance, I really like thinking of myself as a temple. My tattoo artist even said his temple has stained-glass windows because there is so much beauty on it.
As I’m sure Paul realized, temple fits because first, the creator of the universe dwells here. Second, I make sacrifices here of behaviors I know are unhealthy.
The Church has not handled teaching about the physical body well. We have demonized it beyond possession, distanced ourselves from desire and demanded we foster hyper-spirituality by instead thinking really hard about Jesus.
But what if we thought about the body in temple terms? What if we treated our bodies as sacred as we treat our souls? What if the physical moved from a place of worry to a place of worship? What would our faith look like in practice if we believed God made our bodies the way he crafted our souls: carefully and lovingly?
This is what Lisa Ingram taught at TBH this week, in words much more articulate than mine: “We get into the mindset sometimes that our minds and our spiritual lives are more important than our bodies… or that spirituality is a mind thing. It’s not.”
She suggested kneeling or standing in worship as practical ways of moving your body the way you want your soul to behave.
What if we moved our souls the way our bodies already do? Make taking a breath an inhalation of grace and an exhalation of gratefulness. Change God’s marriage gift of sex from a dirty forbidden thing to a beautiful moment of worship, where the self is both given and given to. Consider God’s indwelling as not intrusive, but expected in physical intimacy.
There are people out there who believe that neglect for the body does not affect the sharpening of the soul. But of course, that’s not you or me. How terrible they are, those who pretend their bodily actions are not rooted in their minds and souls. These people are, of course, those who also pretend their souls are not beholden to the actions of their bodies.
Let me take this a step further and Christianize it a bit.
I can sexually abuse someone and walk away spiritually spotless as a newborn lamb if my body does not matter to my soul. And on the flip side, I can be a professing satanist who believes child sacrifice is a fun pastime and continue to do good works in the world and treat people nicely.
Anyone who has taken a breath of woke-ness in this world knows these things cannot be; but it may shed some brilliant light on a disgusting corner of the church no one wants to clean up.
The mind and the body are inherently and irrevocably interwoven. Back to the first metaphor for the self: to separate them is to pretend a ship can sail without a crew. To succeed in your voyage, you can’t forget who your captain is, but he can’t set sail without you first offering him the helm.
~ Samantha Gassaway
The views expressed in this post may not necessarily represent the beliefs of Biola University. All content is designed to encourage biblically-grounded conversations around culturally relevant topics.