Fear and anxiety around “flesh”…

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Romans 7:21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. 

Who will rescue me from this body of death? Wow. Of course I relate to Paul’s desperation and frustration. I cannot count the number of times I have desired to do what is right and yet failed to do so. Again, what I find interesting is how Paul locates the source of his sin in his flesh. His body or “members”. Paul’s “inmost self” (soul or spirit) delights in the law while his flesh rebels. There are two problems I have with this.

First, when God created human beings they were described as “very good”. Not just “good” as the rest of creation, but “very good”. I’m not ready to describe the flesh as categorically bad or sinful as Paul appears to do.

Second, Paul’s aversion to flesh or body has had awful consequences in later generations. Rather than celebrating bodies as a gift, too often human bodies have been understood by Christians as something to be covered, to be hidden, to be a source of shame rather than delight. God created bodies and called them “very good”. God created sexuality and gave it as a gift to human beings. The very first directive God gave to Adam and Eve was “be fruitful and multiply”. Guess what that involves? Lots of sex. Yes, there are boundaries around sexuality in scripture, but too often sex itself has been considered something inherently evil or sinful. I don’t believe God would agree.

Finally I will mention how I see this sort of cultural conflict play itself out in the lives of my two young adult daughters. Yes I have a son as well, but it seems to me the pressures and conflicts endured by females and their bodies are greater than for males. Just my opinion. I’ve seen my daughters have something of a love/hate relationship with their bodies, their appearance, their “flesh”. And I’m sad to say some of the roots of this conflict originate in the pages of scripture. Especially Paul’s letters.

Lord free us from fear and anxiety regarding human flesh, for in your eyes it is “very good”. Amen.

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