Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Do our bodies matter to God? If God cares about our bodies, how does this impact our behavior as sexual beings? These questions find startling answers in 1 Corinthians 6:9-20.
This passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was written in response to certain behaviors and attitudes that were present among the Christians in Corinth. As new believers, the Corinthians naturally brought along into their Christian life the assumptions and practices of their culture. This culture valued the spirit, the inner being of thought and feeling, but tended to ignore or even denigrate the worth of the body. Thus, the Corinthian Christians engaged in sexual immorality without worrying that it might be inconsistent with their faith. After all, sex was simply a function of the body, and bodies weren’t all that important, or so they thought. The spirit was what really mattered.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul did far more than rebuke the Corinthians for their immoral practices. He wanted them to understand why sexual activity matters to God. This has everything to do with the value of our bodies. “They were made for the Lord,” Paul writes, “and the Lord cares about our bodies” (6:13). Our physical members, and not just our spirits, are actually in some way parts of Christ himself (6:15). Even more amazing than this, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (6:19). The very Spirit of God dwells in your body, thus giving it extraordinary value as a sort of human temple. On top of this, God has “bought you with a high price,” the death of his Son (6:20). For all of these reasons, your body is important to God. Therefore, Paul concludes, “you must honor God with your body” (6:20). For the Corinthians who were engaging in sexual immorality, this meant they should stop using their bodies for illicit pleasure and start using them for God’s glory.
Most Christians know that God has high standards for sexuality, standards that are increasing inconsistent with those of our culture. Most of us, at one time or another, also struggle to be faithful in living up to these standards. Our laudable efforts to remain sexually pure often focus exclusively on the wrongness of sexual immorality, on what we should not do. Though we should take seriously God’s standards for sexual expression, rather than focusing so much on what to avoid, we would be better off to imitate Paul’s example by highlighting the inestimable value of our bodies. The more we see our own bodies as temples of the Spirit, the more we realize that our bodies are for God and his purposes, the more we will be empowered to honor God with our bodies, both in what we do and in what we don’t do with them. We will find the motivation and strength to glorify God even in our sexuality. Moreover, knowing that our bodies are precious to God can also bring healing and hope for those who have been physically or sexually mistreated.
Living Christmasly means realizing that our bodies are for the Lord. Even as God’s glory was revealed through the Incarnation of the Word at Christmas, so our bodies are to be instruments of God’s glory each day.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you think about your body? When you read 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, how does this impact your thinking? How might you glorify God in your body today?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, when we think about our sexuality, we can easily focus on the negative, on what we’re not supposed to do, on how our culture draws us away from sexual holiness. To be sure, we live in a day when sexual sin is rampant, and many of us are touched by this reality.
Thank you, Lord, for the positive message of 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. Thank you for the reminder that our bodies were made for you and that you care for them. Thank you for dwelling in our bodies through the Spirit. Thank you for purchasing all that we are, including our bodies, with the sacrifice of the Son. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to honor you with our bodies, in what we do and in what we choose not to do for your sake.
Help me, Lord, to honor you with my body. Teach me what it means to treat my body as your temple. In all that I do, may I glorify you. And, by your Spirit’s help, may I refrain from all that dishonors your.
To you be all the glory, dear Lord, even and especially in my body! Amen.
Today’s post is one of the Daily Reflections that I write for The High Calling of Our Daily Work (www.thehighcalling.org), a wonderful website about work and God. You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace.