Rev. Eli Davis
I don't know how many times I've heard from people who have had loved ones who just died that they have nothing to be sad about because their loved ones are with Jesus. They claim that dying was really a good thing, because now they're free from all their pain and suffering and shame. It's as though the only thing really keeping us from being with Jesus is our physical existence--as though our bodies aren't really who we are.
It's an idea that changes the way we look at death. Death is no longer something that divides us from God, but unites us with Him. Death is no longer an enemy, but a friend. Death is no longer evil, but good. It's an idea that also changes the way we look at our bodies. Our body is no longer all that important. What happens to it is not the same as it happening to me. So now I can either change it any way I want, or do nothing at all with it. It's all the same in the end. This mindset affects so many in our world. Gender doesn't matter. Sexuality doesn't matter. Self-mutilation doesn't matter. Abortion doesn't matter. Suicide doesn't matter. No one can say a thing. Because it's all within the realm of "my body" which, in the end, doesn't matter at all.
This idea isn't new. It's old. Ancient even. We can call it by its Greek name: gnosticism. The name comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge. Gnostics believed they had the secret knowledge to the way this world worked. To put it briefly, they believed that all physical matter was the result of a spiritual mistake and that eventually everything in the physical world would be destroyed and only the spiritual would remain. Those who knew that they were spiritual would have their spiritual self live on forever, while those who lived as though their physical body were their real self would be lost forever. Gnostics eventually saw that some parts of Christianity appeared to line up with this view--at least, if you discarded the parts that didn't. That picking and choosing still goes on today.
However, this idea that the body isn't really worth anything is the opposite of what God says about it. God created humanity physically and called it very good (Genesis 1:31). God gives us His Law to protect both our bodies and the bodies of our neighbors (Exodus 20:1ff). He thinks enough of our bodies to take on that flesh Himself (John 1:14, Romans 1:3). And our great hope is not that our spirits alone remain with Jesus, for even those who are there groan, "How long, O Lord?" (Revelation 6:10) Our great hope is in the resurrection--the same resurrection we celebrate on Easter; the same resurrection we are baptized into; the same resurrection that comes on the last day. It is then when our bodies and souls are put back together again and where we are made alive again. Your resurrection is what Jesus died for, which means your body matters to Christ.
You matter, both body and soul. Together, these things make you one. And to take them apart is death. You matter, in the flesh. You matter enough that Jesus gave up everything to pull you out of the grave. Your body is you, and it is a gift from God. Therefore, gender matters. Sexuality matters. Self-harm matters. Abortion matters. Suicide matters. Death matters. And these all matter enough for Christ to have done something about them all. By being born in Bethlehem for you. By dying on that cross for you. By rising from that grave on the third day for you--not just spiritually, but physically, in the flesh, all for you.
Jesus Christ cares for you, both body and soul. He cares enough to overcome sin and death, so that you may live and have your body and soul back together again. There's a prayer we pray at funerals--a prayer no Gnostic would ever pray--but it's important for us to hear. May God the Father who created your body, may God the Son who by His blood redeemed your body, may God the Holy Spirit, who by holy baptism sanctified your body to be His temple keep you to the day of the resurrection of all flesh. Amen.
Pastor Eli Davis serves at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Grants Pass, Oregon.
Created: March 29th, 2016