Body and Belonging

Body and Belonging

Written on 05/16/2024
Wendy Haack

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

Growing up in the Christian Reformed Church, I have long loved Question and Answer 1 of our Heidelberg Catechism.

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

I must admit, though, that I have mostly found comfort in the “soul” part. Yes, my soul belongs to my faithful Lord and Savior. Yes, the soul of my youngest brother who died this past summer, or the souls of my grandparents, or the beautiful souls of those in my church, they all belong to our faithful Lord and Savior. We are assured of eternal life with our Savior because our souls belong to Jesus.

But what does it mean that my body belongs to Christ?

As a hospital chaplain, I regularly meet people experiencing a crisis of the body, whether acute or as a result of chronic illness or chronic pain. We know these bodies are temporary, and they are also created by God. Psalm 139 assures us that God knit us together in the womb and knows us intimately. The body is not meant to live forever, but it is the vessel through which we experience the world.

This truth is beautiful and amazing. For years I have been working with people with brain injuries, many of them due to accident or stroke. God has created our brains with the ability to rewire themselves (a phenomena called neuroplasticity); it is an amazing gift! Organ transplants and joint replacements, too, are fascinating examples of the strength and resiliency of the body. God has created the body with the abilities to adapt and recover, to heal and grow.

And the body is frustrating and complicated and fragile. A few cells can develop into tumors or blood clots that can be deadly. The tiniest of organisms—bacteria and viruses—remind us of our vulnerability when we find it difficult to breathe. This easily broken body experiences pain and weakness and fatigue. It has limits; it needs rest.

So what does it mean that my body belongs to Christ?

Because my body belongs to Christ, it is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). God, in mercy and grace, has claimed me and filled me with the Holy Spirit. I am to honor God with my body because God dwells in me. I eat the best I can, I exercise, and I visit my doctor regularly. This body is a gift to me, so I steward it well so that God can use me as salt and light in the world.

Because my body belongs to Christ, I carry around the death of Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 4:10, Paul talks about our bodies carrying around necrosis. This is not the event of dying but the process of it. Necrosis in the body means that too little blood is flowing to the tissue and the tissue is dying. It can be a long and sometimes painful process. This is what we experience in our bodies as we age or develop disease; we experience the process of death long before we experience the event of it. Yes, my body is in bondage to decay (Rom. 8:21). In this process, my body belongs to Jesus; Jesus also experienced death and has overcome it.

Finally, because my body belongs to Christ, I belong to the body of Christ. I am part of the church, a body that lasts forever. God “gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member” (HC, Q/A 54). Even as we experience disease, chronic pain, or aging, we are not alone. We are not abandoned or forsaken. And in God’s grace, we have been put into communities—families and churches—for mutual support and encouragement. Because of these promises, “We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love” (HC, Q/A 28).