Part of the mental warfare we face these days is that the basic way of thinking most common all around us assumes a very low, small view of what we are as humans. If people are forced to define what a human is, the most they can typically muster is something about evolving, and maybe a note about belonging to the mammal family. Seriously. So weak.
This is something I’ve mentioned on Monday nights from time to time. It’s becoming a project of mine–to slowly amass biblical wisdom and Christian thought from across the ages to try to build a coherent, compelling, and (hopefully) deep account of what a human is; and one which actually matches God’s reality.
For instance, in his letter to the Romans, Paul hits one part of this whole discussion pretty hard. He mentions the body a lot. And of course, understanding what it means to be human has to include an understanding of what our bodies are and what God says about them. So one way to get some insight into this question is to read through Romans and pull out all the times the body is referred to. Stringing them together and trying to note connections, you can end up with something like this:
- Sin leads to a dishonoring of our bodies with each other (1:24). The body is something that should be honored, and so it can be dishonored. This assumes there’s something sacred or valuable about our bodies. That’s how he starts off thinking about the body.
- In order to exercise faith in God’s word, Abraham had to ignore the deadness of his body (4:19). The body may seem to be a hindrance to faith. Thinking about it while ignoring God may make it hard for us to trust God. But it can’t stand in the way of God’s plan.
- In Christ our “old man” was crucified, so that what is sinfully attached to our body (“the body of sin”) could be done away with (6:6)
- …therefore, we shouldn’t any longer let sin rule in our bodies, to allow sin to use them to serve and fulfill lust (6:12)
- …because Christ interposed his body (which was killed, vicariously on behalf (and instead of) of our bodies) between us and God’s broken law (7:4)
- …so, while we recognize our bodies’ attachment to sin through the lust that remains, we long for full deliverance (7:24)
- …and we recognize sin’s ultimate effect on our bodies–death (8:10)
- …and we know that Christ is able to give our bodies the life they need (8:11)
- …so we put to death these sinful deeds which would kill our bodies (8:13)
- …and we wait for Christ to fully redeem our bodies. (8:23)
- In the mean time, we present our bodies as living sacrifices on the altar of worship to Jesus (12:1)
- …and we understand that we ourselves are now part of the body of Christ–which is the beginning of our full redemption. (12:4-5)
There’s a lot there to chew on from the Holy Spirit.
As an aside, I encourage you to do exercises like this. Whenever you’ve got a question you want answered, research it in scripture. Chase a word or concept through the bible, a book at a time, noting everything you find, making lists and drawing conclusions. Knowing what the Bible really says on a subject is the only way to begin to transcend opinion and rise into the world understanding.