Formations 10.04.2015: Our Spectacular Bodies

1 Corinthians 6:15-20

We are constantly learning more and more about the wonder and potential of one of God’s greatest creations—the human body.

We are constantly learning more and more about the wonder and potential of one of God’s greatest creations—the human body.

The human body is capable of so many more amazing, mysterious things than we usually realize.

For example, we probably all grew up learning that we have five senses. Guess what? We have a lot more than that. We can sense heat using sensors in our skin and without touching anything. Without looking or feeling around, we can touch our fingers to our noses using our sense of our body parts relative to each other. We have a sense of our bodies’ movements in relation to gravity, as well, which helps us keep our balance. Some scientists posit that we have over twenty senses.

Also, we know we are made up of molecules. Everything is made of molecules, and they can be all different sizes. Can you guess where the biggest molecule is found? That’s right. It’s chromosome 1, inside the human body.

Molecules are made of atoms. The billion-year-old atoms in our bodies are also the building blocks for everything in the universe, including—wait for it—stars. God created us with the same ancient atoms that comprise the stars. We actually have stardust inside of us.

As Christians, we know that we are made by God in God’s image and likeness. The fact that God’s spirit lives within us is old news. However, our contemporary culture often allows us to forget how sacred and miraculous our bodies really are. Like the Corinthians, we fail to treat our bodies as temples. We let our bodies fall into poor health, we criticize our bodies when they don’t meet an irrational and impractical standard, we harshly judge others based on the way their bodies look, and we treat bodies like objects.

But think about all the incredible things you’ve seen the human body accomplish. Fighting deadly diseases, lifting incredibly heavy objects, or finishing a marathon in record time. Think of the subtle ways we use our bodies. Cheering someone up with a hug, showing support with a pat on the back, showing affection with a loving touch, and lifting someone up with a helping hand. As Christians, we have the power to glorify our spectacular bodies and, as a result, give glory to God.

The Corinthians most likely did not believe that matters of the body had anything to do with matters of the Church and, like us, did not always use them honorably. When Paul addresses the Corinthians in this passage, he is introducing them to the radical idea that our bodies are more than just temporary, fleshy containers for our souls. Over and over, he repeats the idea that God’s body is a part of their bodies. Their bodies are more than just tools for desire. They are miraculous extensions of their Christian selves. Their bodies are God’s eternal, powerful, loving spirit. When they dishonor their bodies, they dishonor God.

“20 Amazing Facts About the Human Body,” The Guardian, 27 Jan 2013 http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jan/27/20-human-body-facts-science

Discussion

• Have you ever felt ashamed or annoyed with your body? How has that affected your opinion of yourself?
• How is the human body represented in movies, television shows, and music videos? Are different bodies usually shown in different contexts? Why?
• How can our words and actions reflect our belief that everyone’s bodies are sacred temples?

Reference Shelf

Keeping Immorality out of Christ’s Body

Another abrupt shift in topic seems to occur at 6:12 as Paul challenges an attitude of permissiveness regarding behaviors pertaining to the body. The attitude is expressed in one slogan (“All things are permitted for me,” 6:12) and supported by another (“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” 6:13). Paul’s argument against this attitude utilizes three “Do you not know?” questions that focus on the body (6:15, 16, 19). His reference to a prostitute (pornē) at the center of his argument (6:15-16) suggests to many interpreters that engagement with prostitutes is the problem that concerns Paul here. More probably, Paul’s concern is that the church in general is not taking matters of immorality seriously enough to confront them. The church has not dealt with the particular case addressed in 5:1-3. It has not assumed its responsibility to “police” the membership in such matters. Thus, Paul has argued in 6:1-11 that the church can and should exercise internal judgment of even trivial matters, as well as major ones. This failure to perform such discipline as Paul has called for (5:2b, 4b-5, 12-13) seems to root in the perspective that matters of the body are not of spiritual consequence. Paul attacks this perspective by affirming a different view of the body. In doing this, he points out the extreme, and unthinkable, example of joining Christ’s body with that of a prostitute.

Robert Scott Nash, 1 Corinthians, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2009), 162.

Ethics, Personal and Corporate

In 1 Cor 5:1–6:20, Paul continues to respond to reports received concerning goings-on in the Corinthian church. The initial issue is a charge of incest which members of the church have either ignored or winked at. While Paul condemns the practice of immorality “of a kind not found even among pagans” he also chastises the Corinthians for their attitudes which allowed the immorality to continue. The point is clear: ethical behavior is neither exclusively personal nor corporate. Individuals contribute to the values of the community and the community, in turn, should encourage the adherence of commonly held values from individuals. The incest issue allows Paul to confront an apparent proclivity among the Corinthians to take one another to civil court and, also, the prideful sexual libertarian life-styles (no doubt influenced by the Aphrodite cult in Corinth) among some. In each instance Paul again asserts the interdependence of personal and corporate ethics: each person’s attitudes and actions contribute to and are influenced by the values of the community.

Edwin K. Broadhead, “Corinthians,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 173.

Michelle Meredith is a graduate of Mercer University, where she was the editor for literary and arts magazine The Dulcimer. She taught third and fourth grade in Mississippi for two years with Teach for America and became even more obsessed with live music and southern food (don’t even get her started on Delta tamales). She loves comedy, board games, roller derby, and hanging out with her dog. She is happy to be back in Macon, Georgia as the associate editor of Formations.

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Comments

  1. Marilyn Bird says:

    Really liked this blog and used it in addition to a lesson that didn’t seem to fit our class. I always like extra ideas. Thanks!