I’m not an avid shopper, so it caught me off guard this afternoon when I found myself spontaneously pulling into the TJ Maxx parking lot. I was in a need of a few new work shirt (for this brutal eastern NC humidity), and before I knew it I was in the fitting room with a pile of ill-fitting clothes. As piece after piece didn’t fit, I knew I had to silent the devil that is negative self-talk. I won’t say mean things to my body. I won’t be cruel to myself because I usually wear a certain size at another store and that size at TJ Maxx doesn’t zip. I just won’t do it. It’s not worth it.
Twenty minutes later I walked out triumphant. I didn’t find a single thing to buy, but I also didn’t say anything nasty to the body God has given me. And that, my friends, is a win.
On my drive home, I reflected on it. We hear it often from Christians and non-Christians alike: no negative body talk. And while they have good and valuable reasons why — like the way the way we talk to ourselves forms the way we value ourselves and others — I realized that we as Christians have the very best reason. A theological reason underpins our resistance of bad body talk: the Incarnation.
God made flesh and God was made flesh in Jesus. It’s the Incarnation that teaches us that the body is not inherently bad or sinful (otherwise, Christ couldn’t have remained sinless while enfleshed). And Christ died a physical death on the cross and rose to life again. How? In a physical body. Jesus didn’t become a body-less spirit, but retained His body in the resurrection and the ascension, taking human flesh into the heavens for all of eternity. God’s good, perfect, glorious plan of salvation centered around a body. The Body. The Incarnation.
And this changes everything we believe about bodies — mine and yours.
The world is going to teach us one of two things: our bodies are the enemy (so loose weight; you’ll be happier! Take up less space; people will be glad you do!), or our bodies are our gods (You are perfect! You deserve to be idolized for the body you have!). But the Incarnation stands deliberately between the two. We resist negative self-talk not because we are perfect, but because God became man and was perfect in our stead. And because through His bodily death and bodily resurrection we see the end hope of God’s Gospel plan: the resurrection of the dead.
Yes, in the end, you and I will have glorified bodies. We are not on the path to body-less spiritual existence. We are headed towards a glory in which God’s very best plan is to give us renewed and restored bodies.
So the next time you find yourself in a fitting room and that demon of negative body talk creeps up on you, don’t remind yourself of how perfect you are or how perfect you could be according to the world’s standards. Remind yourself that God became a man — a man with a body, whose stomach creased when He sat down, who wasn’t becoming in the world’s eyes — and died a physical death and rose to life again to save you for eternity. Remind yourself of a better theology: that God’s plan leads to a holy future in which you have a glorified body because Christ eternally took on flesh.