So American evangelicalism and its caricatures have a huge emphasis on the salvation of the human soul. It’s not without reason. The soul, is, after all, in bondage to sin and unable to free itself. But there’s an on-going problem with contemporary gnosticism in American Christian theology when the soul (or mind/heart, or spirit) is elevated above the body. Whether it’s in preaching, teaching, Bible studies, or prioritizing day-to-day values, the message is clear: “That’s just the body. What really matters is your soul.” Friends, that’s a lie from the pit of hell. The story of Jesus–which becomes our story as the Spirit gives it to us in baptism–from when the Word took on flesh (John 1:14-16) to the return for which we so eagerly long for is a great rescue for our bodies.
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:18-21)
The enemies of the Cross worship their dying bellies. They’re enslaved to cravings that cannot give them life. Then there’s this glorious interruption. The apostle writes “But”. Not “But Jesus saved our souls, so we’ve escaped the drudgery of the body.” Not “But our weak flesh will fade and we’ll live spiritual blissful lives forever when that happens.” “But our citizeneship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” Jesus came to save your body. And he isn’t ignoring it until the end, either. As the famed Prayer of Humble Access penned by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer puts it, “Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son, Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood…” (ACNA Common Texts, Long Form). So, the next time you receive the Eucharist, receive it as the reminder that Jesus is saving your body and the promise that it will one day be transformed for glory.