Do you ever go through seasons where God seems to bring a central theme or message to you over and over?
I am in one such season now. I am working through the subject matter of death, heaven, and afterlife in our creative team process for our current series The Other Side; my mind is already percolating on this as I am on my second reading of NT Wright’s book Surprised by Hope; and God keeps bringing me to passages like 1 Corinthians 15, I Peter 1, Romans 8…
What’s the theme? Matter matters! I grew up thinking that somehow God was only interested somehow in a disembodied, ethereal part of us that I called spirit, soul, or something… but that my flesh and blood body, and the earth from which it came, was somehow scrap. It was temporary, earthy, and merely a hindrance… a lifeboat to be scuttled when we all got out.
I heard a lot of sermons, talks, and even Sunday School lessons that were centered on the unworthiness and temporal nature of matter (be it earth, flesh, etc). This thinking obviously then produces an attitude of escapism and evacuation. "Why spend time and energy ‘being green’ (for example), taking care of a planet or a body that is only going to be destroyed shortly anyway?", was an argument that I have heard more than once. Kind of puts an awkward light on stewardship, doesn’t it?
But several years ago, while preaching a series on taking care of our bodies, I began to seriously study 1 Corinthians 15. Paul teaches that our bodies, not just our spirits or souls, will be resurrected. Our bodies will be raised from the dead, and transformed. And that was hard to swallow at first, because, I have to admit, most of my mental furniture had been built in Plato’s
factory. Spirit was disjointed, separate, and unequal from body. And
God was only interested in spirit, wasn’t he? And as I continued to study and look, I began to see that God talked about a new body, a new heaven and a new earth – transformed, better, but matter none the less. That was different – after all, how many of us picture the afterlife as clouds, harps, and spirits?
I am not pretending to have all of this figured out. But I do see how God, who created mankind in a garden setting, to walk and talk with Divinity before the Corruption, seeks to redeem creation back to the plan of early Genesis… redeemed matter, redeemed creation in harmony with God. Not a disembodied spirit but a "weightier" (the word for glory) body, that makes our current body pale in comparison as the moon pales in comparison to the sun (1 Corinthians 15:40).
The implications are huge. The goal of salvation is NOT ONLY about helping people get to heaven, BUT ALSO about joining in the redemption, as an agent of the Creator, acting on behalf of the Savior of all. Acting at the behest of our King to restore all to His plan before the Corruption of Genesis. It means God is interested in how I steward everything. That it is ALL a gift and it will ALL one day be redeemed – returned to its original, pre-corrupted state and purpose in the Kingdom of God.
People matter – not only because they will one day inhabit heaven, but because they can be citizens of that Kingdom NOW, forces of Holy redemption TODAY. And your body… it’s gonna make the trip. But don’t let that depress you – God can do wonders even with a body by Hostess 🙂