Body (Of Christ) Image
A few weeks ago, I posted on some missional wisdom that we could glean from Dr. Phil McGraw. While I meant the post to be in good fun (though still genuinely helpful), I haven’t been able to stop thinking about other parallels in those ever famous “Phil-isms”. Believe it or not, the most impacting book in my life that Dr. Phil wrote was “The Ultimate Weight Solution”, which not only helped me drop nearly 30 lbs, but helped me understand the dynamics my weight problem. As a further endorsement of the book, albeit a sad one for me, is that when I stopped following the very practical and achievable guidelines of the book (resulting in some weight gain), it was for the very reasons he pointed out.
At any rate, this post is not about personal health or weight lose. Rather, there is a lesson I learned on that journey that I believe has application for those of us in the Church. One of the biggest lessons I learned was learning to differentiate between body image and self image. Body image is your view of your body, both positive and negative- I’m too fat, I wish my nose was smaller, I love my ears, etc. Self image is how we perceive and value our whole selves- our identity. The problem is, in our culture, we have too often equated body image as self image. For example, I am fat, therefore unlovable (or the reverse, I am thin and gorgeous, therefore lovable and good). We need to learn to recognize that self image what is most important, as it reflects more truly who we are. This is not to say that we neglect body image, as it can sometimes teach us about ourselves, as well as shows us where we need to grow, heal and work.
We, the Church, are the Body of Christ. What, if anything, can we learn from this simple, yet profound understanding? Body Image is how we view ourselves, both in our own local expressions and larger or external expressions. We can see where we have blemishes, warts and weight gain- be it individualism, materialism or ethnocentricity. We cannot ignore these externals, as they are reflects of what is in our hearts, that which fragments us as a unified missional community of faith- ultimately sin. However, we need to remember an important lesson about Body Image: We are One Body, therefore it serves no one to critique those in other expressions or traditions within Christianity as though they are seperate from ourselves. Unless we are willing to declare others to be outside of the Body, our critique of them is a critique of ourselves. This is not to say we shouldn’t critique/evaluate, but that we do so as an exercise of shared growth and maturity.
Perhaps the most important lessons we can learn we can glean from Self Image. As we are Christ’s Body, not our own, Self Image is drawn not from that which defines ourselves- our identities- but rather from the Person of Jesus Christ. This, I truly believe, is part of what it means to “die to self”- not the eradication of our own God-given individuality, but rather that we draw our deepest and truest shared identity as the Church from who Jesus is. As we do this, suddenly a hopeful eschatology is inevitable, humility in the face of our own human failure is not threatening, and grace is passionately embracive. And it is in the oneness of our His Self that calls us to the unity of the Body.
What are your thoughts? Any other lessons we can learn that I might have missed? Jump in!