In the days of the Catholicism of my youth, we often heard the phrase “temple of the Holy Spirit” in reference to issues with our bodies. Most of us interpreted the caution to treat our Temple of the Holy Spirit with honor and respect which in those days meant “Don’t do anything sexual!” In revisiting that issue, however, I’ve come to see that it offers a healthy powerful morality of the Body.
Traditionally, Christian theology has tended to separate spirit and body and to place a much higher value of spirit. This is not the case with all religions. Buddhism, for instance, celebrates the body and has a much healthier approach to morality of the body.
I recognize that in my addictions of cigarettes and alcohol, I desecrated the temple of my body and that, in pursuing recovery, I atoned for that desecration. I also recognize that, when I allow extreme levels of stress and do not do anything to protect against the effects of stress, I am neglecting care of the temple, allowing it to deteriorate in disrepair.
There are many ways we desecrate the temple of our bodies. There are addictions. There is overeating. There is unsafe sex. There is an absence of nutrition. The list goes on. When we treat our bodies in these and other irresponsible ways, it is as if, like the Jews of the Old Testament, we have introduced false idols into the temple, choosing to give such idols as Alcohol or Making Money priority. We know from books like Lamentations how angry this made God!
How then do we honor the temples of our bodies? We need to first of all assess whatever we do that potentially harms our bodies and to make corrections. We need to assess the level of stress to which we subject our bodies. We need to note those healthy ways in which we enjoy our bodies and therefore celebrate the temple. In that regard, the words of Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire come to me when I think of the running I do: “God made me for a purpose…But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” What a liberating notion! When I treat my body well, when I enjoy my body in healthy ways, I please God! Therein dissolves the separation of body and spirit.
Reflections: How do you celebrate the temple of your body? Have you desecrated that temple in any way or brought in any false idols?