God in Flesh
When God chose to come to the world embodied in Jesus Christ, he accepted life with all of its limitations, from his dependence on his mother Mary as an infant, to the ups and downs of adolescence, the need for food and sleep, the susceptibility to sickness, the inevitability of suffering, and the experience of death.
Apart from these more obvious realities of life in a body, at the heart of the biblical vision of the incarnation is that the time, place, family, and particular body that Jesus inhabited were not a random accident but designed for the sake of his specific destiny. Jesus knew that everything about his earthly life, including the body he inhabited, was to fulfill God’s intended purpose. In the following passage we gain a glimpse of Jesus’s self-understanding of his mission:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. . . . Then I said, “Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.” (Heb. 10:5, 7)
The measure of health we have. . . is not accidental but filled with potential purpose.
In that statement, destiny and the body are melded together in an inseparable unity in Jesus Christ, linking the concrete form of his life with the work he was sent to do. Accepting that this applies to the great and glorious mission of the Son of God, who is the Savior of the world, is a big thought; it becomes even bigger and much more personal when we extend it to every one of us as fellow embodied creatures. Let’s look at three consequences of seeing the body as gift and intimately connected to our destiny.
Embracing Our Destiny
First, despite all our efforts to escape the body and seek salvation apart from it, the enduring fact is that God’s plan of redemption for us will not be apart from the body but in, through, and for the body. Second, the particular form of our body, including the measure of health we have and the place and time in which we live, is not accidental but filled with potential purpose. Finally, the frailty and finitude of our body represents not extraneous limitation but an intentional part of the gift that is our body.
If our bodies are an inescapable fact, then trying to change them beyond what they are meant to be is likely to make us sick rather than healthy. This in no way dismisses or discredits a thoughtful care of the body that includes healthy diet, good exercise, and proper rest. But if the form of our body is not incidental but essential, the sooner we embrace our body, the sooner we embrace our destiny.
This article is adapted from Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Bob Cutillo, MD.
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