Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fashion and Christian Identity: The Purpose of Our Bodies

It's "Fashion Week" here at Renewing Your Mind!  There will be a series of six posts this week on "Fashion & Christian Identity".  Introduction, Modesty & Our Bodies, The Purpose of Our Bodies

*Note:  I know I totally ignored the idea of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit as pertaining to the entire body of Christ, and this is something I want to explore more in the future.  

Regardless of whether a Christian believes the Bible is inerrant or infallible, most Christians do take the Bible seriously and in order to understand the purpose of fashion and clothing, which covers our bodies, we need to look at a Christian understanding of the purpose of our bodies.

In chapter 6 of Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, he discusses exactly this.  In a section about sexual immorality, Paul explains exactly what our bodies are for:  “The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord” (1 Corinthians 6:13a).  And how, exactly, is the body meant for the Lord?  He explains, “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”  (1 Corinthians 6:19).  The Christian’s body is meant to be a temple of the Holy Spirit; and Paul explains “For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
When someone is given an expensive gift,it usually is treated well.  So if our bodies are are considered to have been bought with a price, then how should they be treated?

It’s like wearing certain clothes.  If we are in formal clothes, we don’t rake leaves or clean the house.  Our bodies as temples are the most formal that we can get.  We should treat them accordingly.  It might seem as if it is a “God is watching you” thing but it is not.  How do we take care of our homes?   Our houses have mowed lawns and are painted, our cars are washed--well, not mine--and look at all the beautiful rooms and houses that people pin on Pinterest.  There is a desire that we have for beauty.  And our churches are especially kept in good condition inside and out.

N.T. Wright says “This whole passage is about learning to use the human body in the right way, for the right purpose.” (Paul For Everyone: 1 Corinthians, p. 71).  “Somehow Paul envisages the Christian’s relationship with the Lord Jesus not simply as a ‘spiritual’ one, but also a physical one: not of course in the sexual sense, but in the sense that Jesus wants to know us and work through us as fully physical human beings, both here and hereafter.” (73)

I don’t think most Christians give much thought to their bodies as temples; the idea of a temple is rather foreign to us and we tend to look at our church buildings as being God’s house, not our bodies.  Church services often start with what is called an invocation, which is calling upon God to be present.  But if our bodies are God’s temple, then God is already present, wherever we are.

Not only are our bodies the temple for God’s Holy Spirit, but in Romans 12, Paul exhorts Christians to consider their bodies “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (verse 1) to be presented before him.
We also have the image in the New Testament that Christians are a “royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9).

And so, we have all these images of who we are as Christians: temple, priest, and sacrifice, and in order to understand them better, we need to understand how they were first understood in the Hebrew Scriptures.

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