Saturday, July 4, 2009

Just What DOES God Think About My Body?

Usually, if you ask the wrong question, you get the wrong answer.

I think that most people ask a different question than the one I posed in my title to this post. I suspect the one they generally ask is:

What does God think of nakedness?

It’s a similar question, no doubt, but it’s not the same. And in my view, it’s the wrong question, or at very least, its a secondary question. Let me explain...

“Nakedness,” as a term, refers to the human body in the state of being unclothed. It is the body without anything extra. It is the body by itself, with no non-human elements covering it. Nakedness is the state of a human body plus nothing else. In other words, nakedness is a state which describes the body; it is not the body itself.

The body is the body whether it is clothed or not. No matter how much clothing someone wears, not one stitch of their clothing will ever be part of his or her body.

Furthermore, nakedness is not a persistent reality. It is a description of the body’s relationship with items of clothing at a moment in time. Someone may be naked at one moment and fully clothed in the next. Indeed, for most people nakedness is a daily transitional reality.

So to ask what God thinks of “nakedness” is to ask what God thinks about a state of a human body in relationship to physical items known as “clothing.” Or more precisely, what He thinks about the state of a human body which is – at a given moment (and temporarily) – unclothed. Ultimately, it is asking what God thinks about something which is completely external to the body itself!

But if you ask that question without first asking, “What does God think about the human body?”, you will likely get the wrong answer. We must never ask about an external state of the body without first having a clear understanding of what God thinks about the human body as it really is.
Consider these questions:
  • What is the value of a diamond that is not set in a gold ring?
  • What value would there be in a pile of dung that has been molded and shaped like clay into a beautiful ceramic vessel?
I dare say that you would still consider the diamond as very valuable. And I hope you would attach very little value to a vessel crafted from dung.

A diamond does not lose its value when it is unadorned. Nor does dung gain much value if it is molded to look like something useful. The real value of these items might be obscured or highlighted by their external presentation, but that presentation will in no way determine their value.

So it must be with our understanding of the human body. Before we can get a clear understanding of God’s perspective towards nakedness (external to the body), we must first ask what God thinks about the human body without any reference to outside adornment.

I’m not sure why, but when exposure to the idea of Christian Naturism compelled me to dig into God’s Word to know God’s mind on the subject, I asked the question in my title rather than the one most people usually ask. In retrospect, I can now see that it was clearly the right question to ask. And I believe it led me to the right answer.

Without going into it all here and now (perhaps another post!), I’ll just summarize that I concluded from God’s Word that God has the highest esteem for the human body. Consider the following:
  • The human body is the only object in all creation given the honor of actually bearing God’s image. (Gen 1:26-27)
  • It’s the only created thing ever described in the Bible as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psa. 139:14)
  • It’s the only dwelling place that is ever christened, “The Temple of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 3:16)
  • Having a physical body is such a significant and indispensable aspect of being human that even though we will someday die, God will not allow any of us to spend eternity without a physical body, for every last one of us will be physically raised to life some day.
All of the things I’ve just listed are true of God’s view of our bodies, irrespective of whether they are clothed or not.

I count these truths to be significant and foundational. They must be clear in our minds prior to any discussion about the temporary presence or absence of clothing. Furthermore, any effort to interpret the Scriptures regarding nakedness which ignore (or worse, contradict) these truths, will surely be in error.

But that is precisely why most people still hold an erroneous view of nakedness... they have not asked the right question. They brought their Christian cultural pre-understanding of nakedness to the Bible then proof-texted their way into believing that their understanding is correct. They’ve never fully grasped how valuable the human body actually is in God’s heart, so their conclusions are simply mistaken.

The fact is that if you keep God’s view of our bodies firmly in mind when examining the Scriptures’ teaching on nakedness, the picture that emerges is very different than what we’ve always been taught about nakedness. It turns out that the “shame” usually (and wrongly) associated with simple nakedness is really to be found in the treatment or use of the human body in dishonorable and/or impure ways.

It is indeed shameful to treat God’s image on the human body as if it were insignificant, or lustful, or disgusting, or indecent, or lewd. Yet, this is the view of the unclad human form which has been unwittingly promoted by the Church, particularly in America. That simply is not God’s view of our bodies. It shouldn’t be ours, either.

God thinks my body is pretty valuable, and pretty special. When He looks at me, He even sees some reflection of Himself! I think that’s pretty cool (for the record, He thinks the same thoughts about you!). It’s high time we all started seeing our bodies the way God does.

Let me close by leaving you with these insightful words from Pastor David L. Hatton:

The highest compliment ever paid to the entire physical human body, and the clearest commentary on its decency, dignity and sacred worth, is the bodily manifestation of God’s Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, in truly “human” flesh by His Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension and predicted Second Coming: a truly “human-friendly faith.”

I welcome your comments or questions.

— Matthew Neal.

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