What do we worship?
If aliens from another planet were to conduct a research expedition to earth, tasked with answering this question, what would they come up with?
They might ask people, but I doubt the answers would match up with what the aliens saw all around them. Various gods would be offered up as objects of worship. Some would say, “I’m spiritual, just not religious.” Others would claim to worship nothing.
But the evidence speaks louder than words.
They might walk through a shopping centre and observe the advertising, with its images and slogans. A beautiful woman, heavily photoshopped, scantily dressed, adorned with product X, and a slogan like, “You’re worth it.”
Nearby shelves are stacked with magazines. The overwhelming visual subject matter of those pages would be human bodies. All carefully presented – even the by-line shots.
Perhaps they would sign in to Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook. What would they see most? Probably selfies. Probably posed to within an inch of their life, nicely filtered, blatantly self-glorifying selfies.
They could watch a security camera feed from an elevator for a while. What would most passengers do? They would check themselves out in the mirrored wall. I’ve done an exercise like this myself and more than 75% of people do it when alone in the lift.
If they watched a professional sporting match that evening, the game probably wouldn’t be long enough for them to count the number of tattoos adorning the players’ bodies like art canvasses.
I think I can guess their findings.
“These people worship their bodies.”
Western civilisation has been described as a “culture of narcissism.” We have become “lovers of self… lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim 3:2, 4).
As I was reading the coverage of Queensland’s proposed abortion-to-birth laws, it struck me that abortion is a most vivid political demonstration of this tragedy.
Perhaps it’s lust for the body which brings about an unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps one-sided, from a rapist, or mutual, between two people who are not otherwise committed to each other.
Selfishness certainly features in most abortion scenarios. Whether a person is being coerced out of someone else’s selfish desires, or if it’s just inconvenient – a question of preference, or simply the desire to be free from the consequences of our own behaviour.
But above all it’s the argument. The never-ending, wildly popular, seductive refrain of, “my body, my choice.”
It’s a tagline that really does work. It cuts through in our culture of narcissism.
Scientifically it makes no sense. Every human being has their own DNA – a unique blueprint from which a unique body; a unique person is built.
The child in the womb has its own, unique DNA. It is a body that is dependent on it’s mother’s body. It is a body existing inside it’s mother’s body. But it is not the same as it’s mother’s body.
But the slogan taps into the whole edifice of pro-abortion thinking.
I can choose my own sexual behaviour, because this is my body. I can choose what procedures I undergo, because this is my body. I can choose to take a life, because it’s in my body.
The worship of the body is so paramount, that it is exalted even above the very life of another.
More than that, it is so paramount, that to question it is blasphemous.
“My body, my choice” not only taps into the thinking behind pro-choice ideology. It also brings with it a permission structure for unmatched outrage. To dare to suggest that there might be a higher ideal than “my body, my choice” is the height of vulgar presumption. It will provoke fierce anger.
On every hand we are bombarded with voices that tell us our body is all we have. It is ours. We own it, and we can do anything we want with it.
But this is a catastrophically destructive lie. Perhaps more accurate in this context to say it is a deadly lie.
The words of the Apostle Paul cut across our cultural narrative like a knife, “Don’t you understand that the body is for the Lord and the Lord is for the body?” He writes to the self-indulging “my body, my choice” Corinthians.
Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
The emphasis on the body is at first perplexing, until we realise that the body is where Christian holiness expresses itself.
Yes, we are more than physical, but we live in and through our bodies. We express ourselves by means of our bodies. Our thinking, our feelings, our desires, all come to expression through our bodies.
It is also with our bodies that we sin, as we have seen. Our ears, eyes, feet, hands and lips give expression to the spiritual corruption within us. Jesus taught the same thing – one famous example is His well-known line, “out of the heart the mouth speaks.”
We are to “present” our bodies to the Lord. Every day we are to live the truth that our bodies are His – with our eyes, we honour Him. With our lips, we honour Him. With our hands, we honour Him. With our ears, we honour Him. With our feet, we honour Him. Our bodies should give expression to His holiness, for His glory.
And by doing so, we model our Lord, Jesus Christ, of whom it is written, “A body you have prepared me… I have come to do your will O God.” (Heb 10:5-7).
The Son of God took a body in which to do God’s will. We are called to the same; to express His holiness in our own bodies, which are the Lord’s.
Consider the difference: The destructive spiral of “my body, my choice” against the dignifying and glorious truth that, “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:20)
That is the ultimate reason we render our bodies to Him. Because it is the only reasonable, right and appropriate thing to do in light of the staggering cost of the grace that made us His, and brought us into His eternal life.
So, we have explored the fruits of two ways of living. The end of the one was death. The end of the other is life.
Let’s not only be politically pro-life in the public square, but also live out the truth of what it means to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”
[I am indebted for some of these thoughts to Sinclair B. Ferguson’s book “Devoted to God”]