BY CHAD BIRD
We’re messed up people with messed up bodies. All of us. Even Miss America gets hemorrhoids. The Fall mocks us in our own skin. We’re all walking sermons. Our bodies preach what life is like in a world groaning under the weight of evil. And it’s a life that eventually reduces our flesh to worm food. All those sculptured bodies in Gold’s Gym will eventually look just as dead as any other corpse. The grave is the great equalizer.
But on this side of the grave, we thank God for our bodies. Or we’re supposed to anyway. That’s easier said than done. I remember, years ago, standing beside the hospital bed of a dear friend. He was a young man, married, two little girls at home. I’ll spare you the gory details, but he’d just been in a work-related accident. As a consequence he would father no more children. What do you say to such a man? Or, similarly, have you ever signed to a deaf woman that she should thank God for her ears? And what will the blind man say when you tell him to thank God for his eyes? The little girl in the wheel chair for her legs? When cancer has begun its metastasizing march from organ to organ, gland to gland, it’s not easy to say, “Thank you, God, for this body.” Yes, we’re messed up people with messed up bodies and so our "Thank You" to God often itself seems scarred beyond recognition.
Let me say this:
Visit a psych ward. Spend some time with an AIDS patient. No, I’m not saying that these people are suffering because they sinned. But they certainly are the casualties of evil. Sin’s talons are sunk all the way to the marrow of our existence. And so sinful people in a sin-soaked world conceive children with birth defects. People get cancer. They lose limbs. We get sick. We get ugly. We get old. We die. Sin’s effects are not seen merely in immorality but in mortality. Death is the climactic homily on the law.
This is why it’s such good news that grace is no ghost. Grace has fingers and toes and eyes and ears. Grace has blood. Grace has a name. The Word did not become a spirit and haunt among us but became flesh and tabernacled among us. What does John say? “Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands,” (1 John 1:1). That’s physical stuff. It’s the physical body of a physical God who wrapped himself in the things of creation so His salvation work is as physical as the nose on your face. This is also why John says that anyone is an antichrist who denies that Jesus has come “in the flesh,” (4:2). If he hadn’t taken on our bodies, our bodies would not be saved. And if our bodies had not been saved, then we have no more hope than roadkill.
We suffer under the weight of crosses we bear. We’re often disgusted or frightened or disillusioned by what happens to our bodies. But we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. We await the day when our own bodies will burst from the grave more lovely than we ever dreamed possible. The blind will see. The lame will leap. The mute will out-sing the angels. Eyes will forget how to cry. Metastasis will not be in heaven’s dictionary. Morticians will have to find another line of work. Preachers will hang up their collar. So it will be at the re-genesis of the world when all is “very good” again in the new heavens and new earth.
All this will happen because Jesus happened. He is the single seed from whence grows the massive tree of a worldwide resurrection. All humanity is in him, and in him all shall rise. Yes, for now we’re messed up people with messed up bodies, but it shall not always be so. Not simply going to heaven, but the resurrection of our bodies—that’s at the end of the Christian’s path. Then all shall be well, for our own bodies shall reflect the glory of the body into which we have been baptized. As the moon derives its light from the sun, so we shall reflect the brilliance of the Son of God.
So we thank God, however weakly, for who we are. We thank him for our messed up, sick, ugly, weak, sagging, confused, dying bodies. In them, by faith, we perceive the working of a good and gracious God who’s already kicked death in the teeth for us. Our bodies are members of him, temples of his Spirit. He and we are one flesh, one blood, one body. He shall raise us even as he raised himself. He shall glorify us even as he is glorified. That is where Christ gets us—all the way out of the grave, into his Father’s house, every believer the fairest of them all.
Chad is an author and speaker who's devoted to honest Christianity that addresses the raw realities of life with the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Chad has served as a pastor and assistant professor of OT theology, contributed hymns to the Lutheran Service Book, and cohosts the podcast “Forty Minutes in the OT.” He holds Master's degrees from Concordia Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College. In addition to writing the books, Christ Alone and The Infant Priest, he has contributed articles to Modern Reformation, The Federalist, Concordia Pulpit Resources, and other journals. His new book with Eerdmans, Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul, is now available for pre-order at Amazon. His writings and other resources can be found at his website, chadbird.com. Chad and his wife, Stacy, enjoy life together in the Texas Hill Country.