Discipline, for a Christian, begins with the body. We have only one. It is this body that is the primary material given to us for sacrifice. If we didn’t have this, we wouldn’t have anything. We are meant to present it, offer it up, give it unconditionally to God for His purposes. This, we are told, is an “act of spiritual worship.” The giving of this physical body, comprising blood, bone, and tissue, worth a few dollars in chemicals, becomes a spiritual act, “for such is the worship which you, as rational creatures, should offer.”
The Jerusalem Bible translates it this way: “Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship Him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, [that is, a note tells us, “‘in a spiritual way,’ as opposed to the ritual sacrifices of Jews or pagans”] by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice.”
More spiritual failure is due, I believe, to this cause than to any other: the failure to recognize this living body as having anything to do with worship or holy sacrifice. This body is, quite simply, the starting place. Failure here is failure everywhere else.
“He who would see the face of the most powerful Wrestler, our boundless God,” wrote Saint Alonso de Orozco, “must first have wrestled with himself.”
Only one who has taken seriously the correlation between the physical and spiritual and begun the struggle can appreciate the aptness of that word wrestle. Habits, for example, hold a half nelson on us. That hold must be broken if we are to be free for the Lord’s service. We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies for ourselves.
What sort of body is this?
It’s mortal. It will not last. It was made of dust to begin with and after death will return to dust. Paul called it a “vile” body, or one “belonging to our humble state,” a “body of sin,” a “dead” body because of sin. But it is also a temple or shrine for the Holy Spirit; it is a “member” of Christ’s body. It is, furthermore—and this makes all the difference in how we should treat it—wholly redeemable, transfigurable, “resurrectable.”
The Christian’s body houses not only the Holy Spirit Himself, but the Christian’s heart, will, mind, and emotions—all that plays a part in our knowing God and living for Him.
Elliot, Elisabeth. 2021. Joyful Surrender: 7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.
We have just completed a 6-Part Study of Elezabeth Elliot’s classic book, Joyfull Surrender. It is available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Lesson Subscription Service. It is also available on Amazon
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