Editorialby Gordon Houser
Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.—Luke 7:22
Like any good Jew of his day, Jesus was an empiricist at heart. Though not visible, God was manifested through deeds in the physical world. John the Baptist wanted a word of confirmation that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus told his messengers, Look around.
When Philip wanted to convince Nathanael to follow Jesus with him, he said, “Come and see” (John 1:46). Even when Jesus is resurrected, he is not presented as some ethereal presence but a body with the marks of his torture and death.
As Doug Hochstetler points out (page 8), over the years, the church often has adopted a dualistic notion of humanity. We often consider ourselves inhabiting a body rather than being a body. One of the early heresies of Christianity, Gnosticism, denigrated the body as evil, “a prisonhouse of the soul.”
But if we believe the Incarnation, that “the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14), we must resist the notion that flesh is evil. Each time we divide ourselves into body and mind, or body and spirit, we distort the way God created us, as unified beings.
We tend not only to divide ourselves, separating body and spirit, but we give greater value to what we call the spiritual. This further distorts the biblical understanding of spiritual as in the direction of the Holy Spirit, not as something nonmaterial.
Our spirituality must be embodied to be real. We live as bodies, and all that we do is to be in obedience to the Spirit. Thus, dishwashing, house-building, changing diapers or trash hauling are to be spiritual activities every bit as much as praying, preaching or singing hymns.
Jesus was unembarrassed by the body. He not only touched lepers and mingled with other outcasts, he let himself be touched and cared for—for example, by the woman suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years (Luke 8:43) and the woman who bathed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:38). He scandalized not only the religious leaders but his own followers. We, too, if we are honest, are likely scandalized by such actions.
Part of the genius of Anabaptist spirituality is in recapturing the early church’s insistence on our faith being lived out in the real world. Knowing Christ requires following him in life.
For Anabaptist martyrs, carrying Christ’s cross was not an idea but something they actually suffered in their bodies. Also they saw their faith as having a direct impact on their possessions and how those are shared.
Mennonites today retain a sense of embodied faith. We are drawn to doing service with our hands. (At least many are. Some of us tend to live in our heads and play with ideas.) We are drawn to food, to making quilts or putting together school kits. Many have been drawn to healing professions such as medicine or nursing. Others are involved in trades, in business.
But we easily get caught up in ideas, in squabbles over interpretations. We lose sight of the fact that our faith is to be lived out as bodies. We are to look around and see God at work in the world.
Another emphasis of Anabaptist spirituality is on community. As Stephanie Paulsell points out in her wonderful book Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice: “The integrity of our bodies is a gift from God, but the meaning of our bodies does not stop at the boundaries of our skin. For we belong to one another, and so we are called to attend to the effects of our choices.”
Together we live out an embodied faith, following the way of our Lord Jesus Christ under the direction of the Holy Spirit in the real world. God created us as bodies, and we honor that good creation by living faithfully as such.
News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer
- Bluffton students offer flood relief for community
- Soymilk offers nutrition for children in North Korea
- BikeMovement DVDs sent to all churches
- Bluffton students to Pittsburgh and Ireland
- Concert proceeds benefit Western District
- MDS finishes house started at San José 2007
- Israeli settlers threaten land, injure activist
- Goshen students to offer relief aid in Peru
- Churches in Haiti feel Hurricane Dean
- Meadows Mennonite Church ends ministry
- Scholarship brings graduation in Congo
- The legacy of cancer
- Israel, China and Wal-Mart
- Too concerned with outward appearances
- Health insurance for all
- Poem one of the best
- MARP announcement misleading
- Men are responsible to control themselves
- Not ashamed of the gospel