Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Blessed Flesh

If our bodies are not just shells for our souls but parts of our glorious and specific creation, if they are truly ours and we not simply borrowing them for a sojourn on earth, then we should not be either too careless or too careful with them. We must be mindful of how our decisions impact our bodies. 

That means that some of the questions we are facing right now are not just human questions; they are theological ones. It's not so simple as "following the science" or "pressing back against the world." Neither is an answer that accounts for the glory of God as thoroughly as we must to honor His design for us. 

We cannot just say that whatever science says is good for the body must be good for us. It's tempting to reach this conclusion because science is the realm that studies the body. Science has broken us down to our very building blocks, amino acids, DNA, and seems to know us from the inside out, so it's tempting to want to say that whatever science comes up with must be good, since it claims to know us so well. 

But science admits that there are things that it still doesn't know. Some of those things are about the body itself - trying to figure out why cancer starts, for example (some factors are known, but many are still not) - and some of those things are not. Something science knows less about than a lot of other things is how things react together. Science can know, for example, that a medicinal compound is stable and effective by working it against a pathogen in a petri dish, but then something unexpected happens when it enters the human body that science just could not predict and in some cases, can't explain. One of the most intriguing examples of this right now, and you can see this on a number of commercials, is a potent drug that treats diabetes...but might also cause a fatal genital infection. I do not for the life of me understand how that is a side effect here, and apparently, science doesn't, either. It took them a very long time to even be willing to admit that there was a connection between the two, but now, the connection is so strong that they have to make a disclaimer about it on the commercial. 

So when we talk about potential treatments for the pandemic virus or the fast-tracked vaccine that's coming out, a solid theology of our body requires us to ask questions about what we potentially don't know about these options. In the case of the vaccine, in particular, we will not know what kind of true protection it offers long-term, how often we will need to take it, or what the potential side effects might be. There simply will not have been enough time pass between this spring and the outcome of it in the next year or even two to know the answers to these questions. So it's vital that we not lose sight of the unknown when we're talking about its impact on an essential part of our being. 

At the same time, God has given us our bodies as a gift, and they are the vessel through which we interact with our world. It is therefore important that we do what is absolutely best for them, that we care for them the way that we would care for any holy thing. And that means that if we have the ability to make them stronger, more resilient, more reliable, more healthy, then we should absolutely jump at that chance. We know that one of God's commands to mankind is to take what He's given us and to nurture it and grow it. The same is true of our bodies. So it's vital that we look at what we do know about potential treatments or vaccines and consider their impact on an essential part of our being. 

These aren't easy questions. They're complicated. They are made even more complicated by understanding the theological reality of our bodies. And the truth is that these are decisions that we cannot make for each other; we have to make them for ourselves. We have to take what we know about our God, what we know about our bodies, what we know about our souls, what we know about our spirits, and prayerfully decide what is best for us. What God would have us do. 

The answer for me may not be the answer for you. For none of us will it be simple. A few years ago, I had a doctor recommend to me a medical treatment that was untested in my condition, but provided a possibility of life-changing transformation. If it worked, it would mean that I wouldn't live every day with this particular issue dictating my life. But the medication was designed to last in 3-month doses, and if it reacted negatively with my body, I could spend those three months (at least) in an ICU because there was no way to get it out of my body once we put it in. The doctor didn't tell me that; I had to ask. He only told me about the potential benefits.

And that's what's happening right now. We're being told a lot of benefits, but barely hearing whispers of risks. If we jump at a vaccine, it could get us back to the life that we want to live. But if something is still buggy in it, it could ruin everything. Once we put these things into our bodies, they don't just come back out. In some cases, they change our bodies in irreversible ways. That's what they're not telling us. It's reckless, and faithless, to say, "It's just a body. Let's take a risk." It's just as reckless, and faithless, to say, "My body is fine just the way it is. It's not even broken." 

Rather, the answer of faith is, "Let's pray about it." See what God says. Consider the blessed broken flesh that He's given you and figure out what is holy for it. 

And remember that what is holy for your flesh may not be holy for everyone's flesh. We can't say that what's good for one is good for all, for every one of us lives in a different flesh - a body created just for us by a God who knew our design even before He knit it together. The decisions we're facing about these sorts of things are personal ones. 

But let us not decide them on the basis of what science says about the shell of our being, but on what God says about our wholeness. 

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