The Body Electric


This week we’ll be talking about 1 Corinthians 12, otherwise known as “The Body Metaphor” or “Spiritual Gifts: You all have ’em, they’re all different, and they’re all great!”

I’ll be focusing on verses 12-26, or the “body proper” as it were.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

Or put another way…

So yeah, we’re all different, and we’re all parts of a body, eyes and ears and feet and even toes. So… when’s lunch?

Ben TrubeIn Sunday’s sermon, Rich touched on why this passage seems stale to us, and why it might not resonate to modern ears. We think of our bodies as machines, and not just machines, but computers.

Yeah of course the computer programmer would say that, we need some examples!

Okay, we are either plugged in, or unplugged (i.e. our cell phone is off or we don’t own one). We process ideas. We network (socially and otherwise). Hashtag, LOL and other internet terms enter our everyday speech (remember w00t!, still like that one). We charge, recharge, or power down, sometimes in units of 5 hours.

There are some of us who want to augment our bodies, change our gender, possibly throw out all the squishy bits and become true cyborgs. But even those of us who haven’t gone that far wear our technology, from Bluetooth to Google Glass.

Our bodies are not our selves. Our self is our soul, our brain, our katra, our pagh, our essence, etc. (Yes, two different Star Trek references for soul). This body is just flesh, a shell, a machine with parts we can replace, or will be able to soon anyway.

We operate the machine, but we are not shaped by it. I may be the burly man with the huge beard, but it’s who I am on the inside that counts.

That’s not entirely false. There are gonna be some bits there where I’m up in heaven and this physical body will have worn out. I’m not really sure what that’s gonna be like though.

In the meantime I’m shaped if nothing else by the limitations and capacities of this body. It’s already had a few problems, so maybe I’m a little more inclined to call it mine, as Rich would suggest as well.

But more importantly I’m part of another body, three actually: my home church, my marriage, and the body of Christ as a whole. I include marriage in this because we are called to come together as “one flesh”, another squishy metaphor, but we are also mirroring God’s relationship with the church. Equal parts making a whole. In my church, each and everyone of us shapes who we are and where we are going (there’s only about 60 of us after all).

This is what Paul is trying to get at, and what we can sometimes miss with all his talk of anatomy. We’re all in this together. We are all important. None of us are just members and none of us leads all the time. We work together for the glory of God.

Even those of us who are Star Trek geeks and who love slightly inappropriate cartoons.

I do want to touch briefly on this thinking of ourselves as computers. I for one like the separation of a keyboard, mouse and screen. I am not a binary creature, though I do appreciate the ways in which math is a part of my makeup (more on fractal nature another time). Language is always evolving but I think it’s important to recognize we are different animals than machines. Our body is a complex system to be sure, but it’s not a car, and it certainly isn’t a computer. We need to be aware of how we are different than machines and spend time articulating that difference, using our machines as tools without being absorbed by them. I’m not one of these “implantable chips are the mark of the beast” people, but I do think God made our brains and our bodies so that we could be spiritual beings and physical ones. Why would Jesus have had to be fully man and fully God if the body was not important?

What other technology terms have you used to describe yourself?