Most of the time we treat our bodies pretty well, but there are those times when we just don't consider the impact certain behaviors or actions will have on our bodies. This may be especially true in the realm of what we respond to emotionally which does much more than just impact our heads or hearts - it impacts the very fibers of our being. Nothing we think or "feel" is ever without influence in our bodies. Therefore, learning to treat our bodies with dignity requires us learning to rein in our thoughts and to rule over our emotions.
Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God. (I Thessalonians 4:4-5 MSG)
Although our writer may have been referring to the dignity with which we are treat our bodies in a "sexual" sense, there is much to be said about maintaining this same vigilance over our bodies in EVERY sense. When the term "dignity" is used, it generally refers to the sense of "self-respect" with which we treat something. This definitely applies to how it is we treat our bodies - for many an action on our part betrays how little we actually "respect" our bodies.
Abuse of one's body begins in many ways, but if we begin from the top down, it may look a little like this:
- The mind. Whenever we take in thoughts which are irrational and then begin to mull them over and over again, we are disrespecting our minds. God created the mind with many faculties, but one of the most important of these is the ability to reason through issues. By the power of deduction (coming to the conclusion because we add this to that and come up with the solution), we make many a decision. Not all decisions are tempered with wisdom, though. If we are to learn to respect our bodies, we must first learn to respect our minds. This is territory we need to declare off-limits to irrational thoughts which seek to invade our minds, but also those thoughts which seem rational at first, but which don't hold up to the test of scripture. An example of this type of thought is the belief we hold of being "unworthy" and therefore undeserving of the love of God. Truth is - he loved us despite our unworthiness, enough to send his Son when we were still totally unworthy, and through his sacrificial death, we are declared worthy. What God declares to be one way we cannot declare to be another - this is just irrational.
- The mouth. Although closely connected to the mind, the mouth often betrays what is much deeper in the heart. If we are to treat our bodies with dignity, we need to guard what both goes in our mouths, and then rule over what comes out. Scripture points to the truth of "garbage in, garbage out". If we think we can have good come forth when all we put in is pretty much junk, we have been deceived. The mouth works closely with the mind and the emotions (heart). What is manifest through our mouth often betrays how it is we actually "respect" or "disrespect" what God has and is doing in our lives. We betray our lack of thankfulness, or perhaps our lack of trust, by the words we speak. The mouth is a portal of entry - so guarding what "goes in" by this portal is also important to the health and welfare of our bodies. Easier said than done - I totally admit that!
- The heart. As I indicated, the emotions are often what plays havoc on the rest of the parts of our bodies. Emotions stir things up, getting the "juices" flowing, so to speak. The volume of hormones released when the emotions get involved would probably blow our minds if we fully understood the response of our bodies to what we allow to affect us through our emotions. If you have ever watched a scary movie and experienced that "edge of your seat" kind of reaction, complete with heart racing a little, then jumped when something scary happened on the screen, you have experienced the influence of emotions. As irrational as it is for us to react to what is on the TV screen, we do - because our emotions have "interacted" with the plot played out in the show we are taking in. Guarding our heart is how we show respect for it. The emotions are not to be feared, but they are to be guarded and not to be allowed to rule over us. They are to be ruled over by the Spirit.
- The hands, the feet, and all in between. After some time ruminating on the same thoughts (rational or irrational), the body will begin to respond to those thoughts. It is natural to begin to "do" what we think. Engage the senses and you will soon find the other "body parts" responding. What gets thought gets acted out. Learning to respect our bodies involves learning what the right response of ALL our body parts should be - internally and externally. We are given the Holy Spirit to help us with this task. As a matter of fact, scripture reminds us that our bodies are the "temple of the Holy Spirit". In other words, our bodies are a dwelling place for God's Spirit - as such, their actions ought to reflect both the respect for his presences and the gratitude for his grace. We won't get this "right" every time, but as we grow in Christ, we will see our bodies responding more and more in alignment with what the Spirit desires. We have to keep moving TOWARD respect of our bodies and in time, we will begin treating them with the dignity they deserve. Just sayin!