1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (EHV)
12 “All things are permitted for me”—but not all things are beneficial. “All things are permitted for me”—but I will not allow anything to control me. 13 “Foods are for the belly, and the belly is for foods, but God will do away with both of them.” However, the body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 14 God raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then remove the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For it says, “The two will become one flesh.” Gen 2:24 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him.
18 Flee from sexual immorality! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
Dear Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit upon us so that we may glorify you with our bodies because we are joined to the body of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
“It’s my body – I can do whatever I like with it!”
This statement, or variations of it, seems to be a catchcry of our times.
So, if a man wants to eat something, even if it means he eats so much of it that it affects his health, what’s it to you? Isn’t he allowed to do whatever he wants with his own body?
If a woman wants to wear certain clothes, even if they’re revealing and alluring to others, what’s it to you? Isn’t she allowed to do whatever she wants with her own body?
If a young boy feels he was born in the wrong body and reckons he’s a girl, no matter what science says, what’s it to you? Isn’t he allowed to identify his own body differently if he chooses to?
If an unmarried couple decide to have sexual relations with each other, what’s it to you? They’re not hurting anyone are they? Can’t they do what they want with their own bodies?
If a woman becomes pregnant with an unwanted child and chooses to abort the child’s life, what’s it to you? Isn’t she allowed to do whatever she wants with her own body? Although I wonder if anyone ever asked the child what he or she wanted to do with his or her own body.
And I could go on.
One of the greatest freedoms we fight for is the freedom to do whatever we want with our own bodies, after all, it’s my body, and since it’s my body, can’t I do with it whatever I want, especially if I’m not hurting anyone else?
Well, that depends on whether your body is truly yours to do with as you like in the first place.
St Paul argues our bodies are not our own so that we can do with them whatever we like. He argues our bodies have been bought by someone else. At great cost, Jesus paid to reclaim us – body and soul – through his sacrificial blood on the cross. If he bought us, then we are not our own. We’re accountable to our new Lord for what we do with our bodies.
After all, did Jesus suffer and die to just save your mind or your heart? Did he endure crucifixion and death just so he could save your spirit? Or did he pay such a costly price to save your body as well? If this isn’t the case, then why would we confess that we believe in the ‘resurrection of the body’?
Similarly, haven’t you been joined to the body of Jesus Christ in your baptism? Isn’t his holy body and blood received into your own physical bodies? Hasn’t he purified your body by his holy and innocent blood?
Since Jesus Christ has purchased us as his own precious belongings – body, mind, heart and soul – and joined our bodies to his own holy body, then we can’t do whatever we like with our bodies without affecting the body of Christ, especially among those who are also fellow members of the body of Christ.
This means if we make a fellow Christian feel unworthy or unwelcome because of what we speak with our physical lips and tongues, this affects the body of Christ.
If we fail to care for the well-being of a fellow Christian because we decided to keep our physical hands in our pockets and walk on by, this affects the body of Christ.
If we use our physical eyes to look at images or videos which lead us Christians into temptation or lead us to be discontent with the bodies of those God has joined us to, this affects the body of Christ.
If any Christian joins his or her own body to another person who is not their spouse for the sake of their own physical pleasure, this also affects the body of Christ.
So, while we may be tempted to go along with the world’s deceptions thinking it doesn’t matter what we do with our bodies just as long as we don’t hurt anyone else, the spiritual and physical reality is that it does indeed matter because, as members of Jesus’ holy body, we would be unwittingly joining the body of our Lord Jesus Christ to sinful and unhelpful thoughts, words and actions.
Now, you may wish to point out that our God is gracious and merciful who delights in forgiving our sins, including those we do with our body.
And I would agree! Our Lord is indeed gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Our Lord does indeed forgive us for all our sins. But this fact never gives us permission to sin. We should never consider sinning against God or anyone else with the assumption God is going to forgive us anyway. Jesus saves us from sin and its harmful effects, but this doesn’t make us free to sin.
Unfortunately, the weakness of our human flesh makes it hard to resist the temptation to satisfy or give pleasure to our bodies. We’re often tempted to do or say things simply because they feel good or because we get some form of gratification. When we give in to these temptations we become slaves to our own fleshly desires.
Once we become slaves to our own physical desires for pleasure, this new master will either control us by encouraging us to want it so much we can never be truly satisfied, or we’ll be so burdened with guilt or shame that we despair of our worthiness. Both of these responses will affect our relationships with those around us, including our relationship with God.
But Jesus didn’t suffer and die so that we would become slaves once more. Knowing our spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, he gave us his own prayer, which includes the petition “Lead us not into temptation”.
As Luther explained, this means ‘God tempts no one to sin, but we ask in this prayer that God would watch over us and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful self may not deceive us and draw us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins. And we pray that even though we are so tempted, we may still win the final victory.’ (Small Catechism, 6th Petition).
The good news is that even when you’ve given in to temptation and sinned against those around you and sinned against the body of Christ with your own bodies, you can eagerly repent of your sin knowing God is gracious and merciful, and for Christ’s sake you’re forgiven for all your sins, including those you do with your body.
In humbleness you submit once more to the rule of our Lord Jesus Christ so that you may glorify God in your bodies. And, to help you glorify God with your bodies and help protect you in your daily struggles with temptation, you ask him to refresh you with his Holy Spirit so that you may lead a holy life, even as Christ has made you holy.
As you receive the promised Holy Spirit, together with all the other members of Christ’s body, you become the temple of the Holy Spirit.
But when Paul tells you that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, you need to note the ‘you’ here is plural. This means he’s not talking to each of us as individuals, but as a community. You and I aren’t the temple of the Holy Spirit by ourselves as if we aren’t connected to each other and don’t have to be. But together, as people joined to the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
While some are tempted to stay away from the physical body of Christ which gathers in worship, we’re encouraged to gather as physical beings in physical worship. We worship and glorify God with our bodies. We come to speak and sing with physical lips. We sit or stand or kneel as a physical response to what Christ is doing among us. We remind each other our physical bodies were baptised. We receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ into our own physical bodies.
You see, even when you’ve succumbed to temptation, Jesus forgives you and makes you holy and pure once more through his innocent blood which touches your own body through the waters of baptism and through receiving his holy body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. His Word and Sacraments wash you clean from the impurity of sin. In this way, through faith, even your guilty or ashamed consciences have been purified through the blood of Jesus.
Jesus Christ has paid the full price for you – for your body, mind, heart and soul. Because he loves you, he still speaks to you and constantly calls you to follow him again and again, because he knows you’ll stray and succumb to temptation.
When he calls you to follow him, you follow him, but not only with your minds and hearts. You also follow him with your strength as you honour him with your bodies.
Like all of God’s good gifts, they can be misused and abused, but God also teaches us how we can bless each other with our bodies as we live chaste and holy lives in repentance and faith. With the Holy Spirit’s help, we can honour God and each other with our bodies.
So, while God has created us and given us our bodies and souls, our minds and senses, and all our abilities, they’re not ours to do with as we please as if we’re not accountable to anyone else. Because Jesus has redeemed us, body and soul, and has purified us with his holy blood, he calls us to use all these things to glorify him with all our heart and mind, soul and strength.
So, as you follow the One who set you free to love and serve him faithfully, may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds and bodies in Christ Jesus. Amen.