Redemptive Body Image by Christopher Mack
Scripture: Romans 8:1-17
Redemptive Body Image
Many of us carry lots of insecurity, anxiety, shame, and resentment about our bodies. We are inundated with messages from the corporate prophets of advertising reminding us of our need to be physically other than we currently are in order to be more attractive and thus happy. We also feel alienated from our bodies because they are where we concretely live out our lives. Our hands have been used to help and hurt. Our tongues employed to bless and curse. Our physical appetites used to nourish our bodies and to numb out the pain. Our genitals engaged for sharing in affectionate love and for selfishly dehumanizing others and ourselves.
We await the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23). Yet too often our religious practice seems to only compound the problem. It can seem like our faith is a list of what not to do with our bodies… “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch” (Col. 2:21). This confusion is only magnified by Paul’s talk of the ‘flesh’ and the spirit in the letter to the Romans. On a quick reading, it can be easy to assume that we are to be at war with our bodies.
However, Paul talks about both flesh and our bodies, and uses two different Greek words to do so. This flesh is not our embodied existence. The flesh is the part of our lives disconnected from God as our Creator and Source of life, love, and joy. The flesh is this fierce impulse for independence from the Jesus Way. It is our ego or over-inflated sense of self. Paul talks about the flesh as this part of our motivation, drive, and agenda when we are opposed to God.
Our bodies are not the enemies. In fact, Paul talks about Jesus the Messiah sharing in our embodied life, in order to redeem it. This renewal is made possible when we experience the Life of the Spirit of God. Allowing this Spirit to inhabit and envelop our beings so we see more of the life of our self-centeredness fall away. We can experience wholeness in our embodied lives. We do not have to see our physicality as an enemy to the spiritual life, but the place where God’s Spirit has come to bring redemptive life. We are freed by God’s Spirit to live in all of the fullness our Creator intended, and our Redeemer made possible. We see our whole selves renewed in the image of God.