1 Corinthians 6:19-20
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
February 19, 2017
When we are small, we fear being overlooked. When we grow old, we fear being forgotten. When we feel not good-looking or successful, we fear being written off. When we can’t command attention, we fear being left out
But God never overlooks us, forgets us, writes us off, or leaves us out. God values us and cares about us – always. We never cease to matter mightily to the Lord.
God values us so highly that He bought the chance to enjoy our company forever at the price of His only Son and means now to make His home in us.
God values us that highly even when we are as big screw-ups as these Corinthians. These clowns were doing ridiculous things like getting drunk at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and drinking all the Communion wine before the poorest church members could get off work and to the Table. And their promiscuity had even degenerated into incest.
Right before today’s scripture lesson, Paul exhorts them to “shun fornication”. It is significant that, in trying to persuade them to walk the sexual straight and narrow, he does not say, “Keep your body holy so that God’s Spirit might dwell in you;” but rather, “Keep your body holy because God’s Spirit already dwells in you.” In other words, Paul seeks to convince them to exercise physical self-control by reminding them of how Christ has changed who they are and how much the Lord cherishes their bodies. Paul does not scold them about their loose living; he just reminds them of what they’ve been taught, asking, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” God has made each of their bodies His cherished residence!
How physical is Paul’s spirituality! For he sees every person as a whole thing, as a unity of body and soul. In each human being God has joined the physical and the spiritual together, and no one can put them asunder.
This means that what I do with my body impacts my soul and what I do with my soul impacts my body. This means that to love God is to love and value my body as God loves and values my body. It is to cherish it, make the most of it, and take care of it that by it I might take care of others and of God’s reputation.
And here is the most radical idea of all. Neither my body nor my soul belongs to me; both are God’s property. For as Paul tells the Corinthians here, “You were bought with a price” – the price of Christ’s blood.
If my body is not my own but God’s, I may not use it however I like. For I am but a caretaker and manager of what Someone Else owns and am to use it in line with the Owner’s wishes. I must make choices about my body that will serve Him and His agenda of love.
So Paul tells these Corinthians who have been dishonoring God by means of their bodies (just as we sometimes do): “Glorify God in your body”.
I can read some of your minds. You are thinking, “My body is anything but glorious – it is fat, defective, badly formed – how could it ever bring God glory?”
What, God could only glorify Himself through the fully fit or the fabulously beautiful? Have you never known people whose bodies are broken or beset by disease who shine with God’s light, and do so all the more brightly because of their debilitation? Have you never been inspired by the strength of spirit radiating from people whose bodies are weakened or diseased? Have you never seen the beauty of the Lord flashing forth from certain people’s eyes with such vividness that their defects and disabilities only catch your notice as what highlights the glory of God upon them?
All our bodies, in whatever condition they may be, can serve and glorify God!
So these bodies are God’s bodies – but they are our responsibility. That is, they are under our stewardship, that we might keep them as functional as possible for God’s purposes (and only rarely, by the way, is it His purpose for a body that it win a beauty pageant or Olympic gold).
However God has chosen to have my body serve and glorify Him, I have a charge from Him to take care of it. I am to eat right (yes, even those five fruits and vegetables a day). I am to sleep enough (yes, even if that means getting off my electronic devices by 10 p.m.). I am to exercise appropriately (yes, even when I don’t feel like it). I am to engage in my sexual side in a life-enhancing way (yes, even when the possibility of an impulsive indulgence feels so right).
I am supposing that most of you here have already recognized the importance of practicing spiritual disciplines for your soul, or you wouldn’t have taken the trouble to come to church today. But do you adequately recognize that, just as Christians need to discipline themselves to say their prayers, read the Bible, and go to Sunday church, in order to keep their souls in good shape for serving and glorifying God, they need to maintain bodily disciplines, in order to keep their bodies in good shape for serving and glorifying God.
Some of us may even need to prioritize our physical disciplines over our spiritual ones – for the sake of our spiritual life! For if I am sleep-deprived, under-nourished or over-nourished, worn out by physical activity or weakened by physical inactivity, my soul will lack energy and strength in my praying, my worshiping, and my practicing other spiritual disciplines.
Keeping my body as healthy as it can be supports keeping my soul as healthy as it can be. If I sleep enough, eat right and exercise appropriately, I have greater capacity for fulfilling my spiritual commitments.
Moreover, my soul often follows the lead of my body. When I bow my head, my heart is more inclined to humble itself before the Lord. When I lift my voice to sing God’s praise, my mind focuses on the Lord. When I get my tush into God’s house, my spirit grows more alert and attentive to God.
Our physical choices affect our spiritual welfare. They likewise affect the spiritual welfare of others. The elderly person who manages to get themselves to church despite the difficulties inspires those around them. The pain-wracked person who smiles through the pain lifts the hearts of their friends. The young person who nurses a ginger-ale at a party to watch over friends susceptible to drunk driving or demeaning sexual activity opens the eyes of others to God’s love.
Let each of us, in whatever way we may, glorify God in our bodies. After all, God values us enough to make us His temple and His means for accomplishing His good will. Let us pray.
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