This video by Cassey Ho has been making the rounds recently. In it, we see a young woman admiring her fit body and then, in response to negative comments, “Photoshopping” herself into some semblance of perfection.
What place does body image–either the image that we see in the mirror or that we see in others–have among Christians? Are we supposed to look at the 400-pound person down the pew from us and somehow not notice? Are we supposed to look at our own bodies and not see what’s actually there? That’s not realistic.
Does God somehow not see the body scarred by overeating or bad nutrition, by drug or alcohol abuse, by years of hard living and bad decisions? Of course He sees those things, just as surely as He sees our sins. The wonder of the Gospel is that, while we were still sinners (including while we sinned against our bodies), Jesus demonstrated his love by dying for us (Romans 5:8).
Our Bodies Should Testify to God
God created our bodies not as objects for personal pride or as a means to sexual attraction–although both of those things can be a healthy side effect of a God-oriented body. He formed us as the crowning achievement of creation.
Look in the mirror. What does your body say about God? Does it proclaim you as fearfully and wonderfully made or does it suggest that God does indeed make junk. Regardless of your imperfections, you body is a marvel. To the best of your ability allow that body to testify to God’s amazing creative powers.
Our Bodies Should Be Healthy
When God created Adam and Eve, neither sin nor death had yet entered the world. It is intriguing to wonder what Adam and Eve looked like. How physically mature did God make them? How “perfect” were they and what standard did that “perfection” follow?
Regardless of the answers to those questions, we can be certain that Adam and Eve were healthy. Where there is no death, there is no disease. Could they catch a cold? That’s an interesting question, but it ignores the larger matter of health.
We have all seen the ravages that various diseases, self-inflicted and otherwise, can impose on the human body. There’s not much you can do to avoid many illnesses, but many others we seem to invite. To the best of your ability, you should keep your body as a healthy tool and temple for God’s use and habitation.
Our Bodies Should Be Functional
Paul tells us that we are “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Part of that handiwork is spiritual, but those good works require a body. Our actions will end with our death. Even prayer, a seemingly passive good work, cannot outlive the mortal lifespan.
The perfect Christian body will be strong enough to do the works that God has prepared for us. While a bit of belly fat will not keep us from doing much of anything, we have all seen people who have allowed their infirmities to keep them from teaching, keep them from missions, keep them from works of service, or even keep them from worshiping with the body of Christ.
Imagine if you had been in Antioch and been asked by Paul and Barnabas to tag along on the first missionary journey. What disappointment would you feel if physical limitations that you could have avoided made you turn that trip down. Physical decline will find us all eventually. We shouldn’t hurry the process along. To the best of your ability, maintain your body as a functional unit.
What do you see when you look in that mirror at your body? The triumphant Christian body doesn’t need to look good in skin-tight workout gear. Your muscles don’t need to bulge and ripple. Don’t allow the world’s looking glass to form your opinions of your body. But don’t be complacent either. Instead, look at your body realistically, through the lens of love.