“The body’s a temple, that’s what we’re told, but I’ve treated this one like an old honky-tonk. Greasy cheeseburgers and cheap cigarettes, one day they’ll get me, if they ain’t got me yet.”
As you can tell from the above video, Paul’s line about the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit has some traction in popular culture. I can’t help but wonder, however, how many people are like me in that they know that famous line, but totally forget about its context. As I read through the lessons for Sunday this morning, I felt a strong urge to double check our rota to make sure the people reading it could handle things like, “Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?”
The passage from 1 Corinthians is a powerful reminder for me about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. So often, we fall into the comfort of platonic dualism and make Christianity only about things spiritual. We think that if we’ve got our head and heart right, then all shall be well, but the truth of the matter is that in the incarnation, Jesus came to redeem all of Creation, our physical bodies included. When we neglect out bodies, or worse yet, when we ruin them with “greasy cheeseburgers and cheap cigarettes,” we fail to fully give ourselves over to love of God and love of neighbor. It’s all interconnected.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not the healthiest person out there. I’m a big fan of greasy cheeseburgers, especially when that grease started out as bacon fat. I love fried foods. I hate exercising. I like beer. Yet, as I sat in a classroom in Sewanee, TN last summer, listening to my heart beat in my ears, I once again realized that I’ll be of no use to my calling, to my family, or to my God if I’m dead of a heart attack at 35. Thus began a journey to reclaim my body as a suitable temple for the Lord. Not through extremes asceticism. Not through crash diet. Not by giving up alcohol entirely, but through something that has by and large been lost in our culture.
“All things are lawful for me,” says Paul, “but not all things are beneficial.” It is when those things that are lawful, be they food, drink, or even exercise, cease to be beneficial, that is, when they get in the way of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves, that we have lost touch with moderation and need to find a new balance. I had lost touch with moderation and needed to find my way back to loving the body God had given me in order to love my neighbor as an expression of my love of God. Of course, that doesn’t mean, I’ll say “no” to the offer of a Seafood BLT with OMG Sauce at Fish River Grill.