Lenten Devotional: March 17th
The resurrection of the body
No one likes to talk about death. It makes everyone universally uncomfortable to face one's own mortality. And I think that's how we ended up incorporating some Hallmark-isms into our theology of death. For example: the Bible does not say our loved ones turn into angels when they depart this world but it does no harm to call passed loved one "angels." One that is problematic, however, if we lean on it too much, is the idea of the immortal soul.
It's not in the Bible, and it came from Plato, who was not musing on Christianity when he wrote it. When creating humanity, God did not snatch floating immortal souls and stuff them into empty shells. God molded our bodies, breathed God's own breath into us, and we began to exist.
Some people talk about "souls" to mean their consciousness: their thoughts, their particularity, and everything that's "separate" from their physical limitations, and that's fine. It helps us separate the two when we need to. But it's important that we see ourselves as "embodied souls" rather than souls in a temporary body. Bodies matter. Bodies are a very special gift from God. And if we focus too much on pursuits of the soul, at best we're working with murky theology, and at worst we run into the theology that was used to justify torture, and burning at the stake (the body doesn't matter... only purification of the soul.)
For addicts who have not always loved or respected their bodies, for victims of sexual abuse whose bodies were treated as commodities, for those who have been discriminated against for the color of their skin, this is an important realization. Bodies come from God. God cares what happens to them. God loves our bodies because we are embodied. We are more than just our physical bodies, but we are absolutely more than just a soul.
So when we separate the two at death, it can claim the wrong thing. If we believe the body dies but not the soul, then we don't need a savior. Immortals don't need Jesus. But we're not immortal. The soul dies too, and we, through the inexplicable and incomparable love of our Lord, are resurrected to join Him.
We believe in the resurrection of the body, that our lives with Christ are more than "floating orbs of consciousness." And I don't know the particulars of how heaven works, so you'll have to look elsewhere for those answers. But I do know that by standing up and claiming we believe in the resurrection of the body, we believe our God has created something amazing in us. We believe that our lives do truly end. We believe that when disease, violence, or a peaceful end takes us away from life, when death comes for us, that Christ snatches us back. That is way more inspiring to me than an "immortal soul."
Jesus Christ, our rescue and salvation, each day we fall on our knees to praise you. You have defeated death and invite us to join you in resurrection. Empower us to appreciate the lives we lead here. Push us to care about others. Help us to celebrate your triumph even while we struggle to understand it. Amen.
Rev. Kelly Staples, Associate Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church