Sunday, 23 November 2008


"The body was created as an inseparable part of what makes us human...
We don't just have a body - we are bodily....
The good news is that, in spite of death, the body will be re-united in all its goodness and splendor one day...
Sexual organs, which God created and clearly included in His pronouncement "Good", we now refer to as 'naughty' (or worse)".

Michael Horton.

Sometimes, you read something, like the above, which makes you want to shout "YES!" with your whole being, and sometimes, you read something which hits you right between the eyes, and makes you realize just how impoverished we can make ourselves when we miss 'joining the dots' to unpack the true ramifications of our redemption. Today was certainly a latter encounter.

For several years, I've been receiving and on occasion writing for the excellent Fig Leaf Forum - a regular newsletter for Christian Naturist's. Now I know that the practice itself raises eyebrows amongst many (those who want to know more as to why it shouldn't , please get in touch), but the inherent and underlying supposition of the practice regarding the nature of the body is something ALL Christians need to understand, which brings me back to today.

This month's forum contained an article on the issue of the nature of shame, especially body shame, and how we as believers can so easily miss the necessary understanding of this and end up in a cul-de-sac of mistaken identity - where we have ill-defined what modesty and piety are and thereby totally missed the inherent nature of godliness.

The piece makes you look forward - to the bodily life that is coming - so that we can properly evaluate where we are right now, and what actually occurred in the fall. It's when we make this study that we are so pointedly reminded that shame (something we've all known) is a consequence of sin (severance from the genuine reality of Creation, both in the Beginning and in the coming renewal).
Now, it's imperative we understand this, because it's so easy to confuse shame with modesty, and then become a casualty of a mis-placed 'holiness' - outward dos and don'ts we believe are correct, but are seriously flawed.

When we look at the Biblical perspective, we see that humanity, male and female, naked and unashamed, is the definition of what is 'very good', but, we continue, those days are gone, so we reason, fallen beings that we are, clothing has become a kind of moral duty - a 'protection' against giving way to evil.
Whilst a considered reading of Genesis 3 itself should give us serious doubts about that understanding (and raise other questions - what 'nakedness' is in focus here?), this really doesn't sit too well with how the body is understood in the New Testament itself, or the nature of the resurrection hope which Paul unpacks in Romans and Corinthians (another great area to study).

What this really shows is that the Fall has entirely broken what was meant (and will be) our natural relationship to the created order, to one another and to the physical body, but that this is what has been redeemed and will be made evident in the approaching 'glorifying' (re-instating of proper significance) of God's handiwork. It also shows us that we can allow badly informed piety to become our schoolmaster with regards to our bodies, fueling a distaste for God's gifts which mars and demeans what we should truly honor.

What struck me was just how crucial such insights have to be when we begin to look at the practical aspects of Christian living. Paul speaks of us giving our bodies as a 'living sacrifice to God' - you actually cannot do that if you hate the physical, the sexual, the natural part of what you are. God is calling for us to show Christ through these very means - in the manner in which we share God's life and love to the world around us. "Denying ourselves" in the sense of cutting ourselves off from the life we are rooted in removes the very means whereby God wants this current world to be 'savored' with the richness of Christ and His redeeming work.

There's a great deal to unpack here, and all I've done so far on this is really get my toes wet.

What comes to mind when you begin to consider how we may have mis-placed godliness?

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