Pity the human body. Alternately coddled or ignored down through the centuries, the body has survived millennia of abuse and misuse, adulation and degradation. But only barely.
People have expended millions of dollars and gallons of sweat in obsessive pursuit of the body beautiful. Guys and gals sign on for months of exhausting regimens to sculpt their skin, muscles, and sinews into a close approximation of the classic ideal of the perfect Adonis or Venus.
Sadly, however, people don’t seem to know what to make of their flesh. Recently, the body has become an impediment—a useful tool to project one’s ego, perhaps, but fundamentally not much more than an avatar of a virtual self that somehow seems more real than the flesh and bone you’re born with. Or shall I say, “born into”?
That’s the latest insult suffered by the body. Transgender ideologies have kids and parents scratching their heads over whether they may have accidentally been saddled with the wrong one. So-called experts have convinced those who feel more like a boy than a girl, or vice versa, that the sexed body is an obstacle to true freedom. Puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and extensive surgical procedures will fix that, they hold. So healthy human organs are surgically amputated, and artificial approximations of alternate genitals are constructed to enable youths and adults to ensure their preferred pronouns and bodies match—or nearly so.
So what should we make of the body?
A Body at Which Angels Wonder
Francis of Assisi, more earthy and direct than most of us, affectionately called his body “brother ass,” likening it to that humble beast of burden that cheerfully plods along, bearing its load without complaint. He saw the lowly mortal body as a mere container for the immortal soul.
People have expended millions of dollars and gallons of sweat in obsessive pursuit of the body beautiful.
The Bible, on the other hand, sees the body/soul continuum as one cohesive unit, the result of God’s creation of our first parents from the dust of the earth plus his life-giving Spirit. Though these sexed bodies of ours do eventually wear out and die, they’ll one day be restored and resurrected into never-ending life.
The Devil and his minions have no comprehension of what it’s like to exist in three dimensions in this material universe. Angels are pure spirits, so they “long to look” into the astonishing wonder at the center of salvation (1 Pet. 1:12). They long to see how at one point in human history, God the Son—the eternal Word of the Father—left his throne in glory and descended to become a zygote within the uterus of a lowly virgin in Nazareth. They strain to see how he was born in helpless infant flesh and suckled at his mother’s breast like all other babies do.
Our hope in time and in eternity is rooted in this human flesh of Jesus, who is simultaneously God and man. The mind-blowing truth is that in him, the whole fullness of the godhead dwells bodily (Col. 2:9).
Bodies, Precious and Precarious
Tragically, many in our time treat the body as an expendable nuisance. Convinced they’re trapped in their bodies, they want out.
I get their frustration. I’m in my 78th year of life, and I’ve always been happy with my male body and all its unique features. Riffing on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s celebration of female sensuality in Flower Drum Song, I rather enjoy being a boy. Jane and I had the pleasure (let the reader understand) of bringing three wonderful human beings into the world and through them now four grandchildren, with the prospect of other generations yet to make an appearance in an unknown future.
But lately, my body has been playing tricks on me. The sexual reciprocity my late wife and I enjoyed has long receded into the rearview mirror. Though there are seven people who can trace their origins to our union, youthful vigor is now a fond memory.
I’ve discovered that embodied life is precious and precarious. In 2021, after 14 months of home hospice care and three days of precipitous decline, Jane died in my arms. Three years ago, I came within half an hour of death myself, gasping for breath after blood clots suddenly took up residence in my lungs. Reality therapy, that was. I’m getting used to the fact that there will come a time when this body of mine will return to the dust of the earth and my spirit will return to God who gave it.
Bodies Who Long for Resurrection
Solomon puts the whole matter in perspective: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Eccl. 12:1).
I was in print not long ago bragging about wanting to be a spry old man. But then I suffered a retracted torn ligament; now I’m hobbling around with a cane and looking at foot fusion surgery and a three-month recovery window. It’ll leave me with a greatly diminished gait. No matter. By the grace of God, I am who I am. I serve my Lord Christ in the diminished body I still have and with all the energy he supplies. No, I’m not what I once was physically. But I’m not what I will be either.
I’m not what I once was physically. But I’m not what I will be either.
On that day when Christ returns and raises all the dead, he will give to me and all believers eternal life in both body and soul. On that day, we’ll hear Jesus exclaim, “Behold, I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:5). Then, even this old “brother ass” that has carried me so faithfully all these years will be remade in glory to be like his own risen body. Thanks be to God!