So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
The doctrine that humans were created in the image of God matters for how Christians navigate a variety of cultural issues—racism, bioethics, abortion, homosexuality and moral responsibility, just to name a few. This truth, the imago Dei, provides Christians with a correct worldview that all people are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) on the basis of their image–bearing. According to this doctrine, human beings are special because we are created beings that exist as both body and soul. Regardless of your capabilities, you are valued by God because you have been created by God as an embodied soul.
However, I fear that we have not fleshed out what the imago Dei means for us as individuals. We have created a culture that focuses mainly on the soul while forgetting the body — a sort of Christian Gnosticism. I am convinced that the Christian community needs to focus on both the body and the soul in order to honor God as his image–bearers.
What do I mean by this? Christians need to practice taking better care of their bodies in order to honor God as created beings. In other words, Christians should consider pursuing healthy eating habits, exercising regularly, drinking more water and avoiding harmful substances. The Christian understanding of body and soul from Scripture obligates us as created beings to be good stewards of the bodies that God has given each of us. However, we are to honor God with our bodies not as a means to earn God’s grace, but as a means to express our gratitude for the grace he has already shown us through Jesus Christ.
Here are three reasons that you should take care of your body because you have been created in the image of God.
1. Your body is a temple.
Paul explains to the Corinthians that they are to flee sexual immorality because “the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Paul concludes,
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20)
Thus, Christians are to refrain from doing harmful things to our bodies, and Christians are to glorify God in our bodies because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
Our bodies are an important aspect of being created in the image of God, and we should use our bodies to glorify God. This means that we should practice healthy eating habits, drink more water and exercise regularly to keep our temple in the best shape we can in a fallen world. Additionally, Paul identifies that we need to avoid sexual immorality, in particular, and anything that could harm our bodies, in general. God created your body with a specific purpose and design, and Christians should do their best to refrain from putting harmful substances (like tobacco, excessive sugar and excessive fatty foods) into our bodies to keep them a suitable temple for the Holy Spirit.
2. Training your body has some value.
Paul explains to his young mentee Timothy,
For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:8)
Some Christians understand this verse to mean that bodily training has no value, but that practicing godliness is all that matters in the Christian life. Christian Gnosticism seems to be at the forefront of reinterpreting this passage of Scripture. But Paul indicates that bodily training does have some value, and that godliness should also be considered a high value for Christians who desire to be faithful followers. If you are able to train your body well, you will be better prepared and disciplined to train yourself in godliness.
In American society, it is easier than ever to eat unhealthy foods, not exercise and fill our bodies with harmful substances. A majority of Americans do not exercise regularly nor take the time to prepare healthy meals because these acts take discipline and self-control. I would argue that those who are able to train their bodies might be in a better position to train their souls for godliness. In other words, if you can exhibit self-control and discipline in taking care of the created body God has given you, you might be better equipped to practice self-control and discipline in the pursuit of godliness with the aid of the Holy Spirit that dwells within you.
3. Practice what you preach with your body.
Paul explains in Galatians that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). Christians are to exhibit self-control in all areas of life — including in our diets and physical activity. In order to be a good steward of your body, you need to maintain self-control by not overeating, eating right foods and seeking to spend thirty to sixty minutes of your day doing physical activity if you are physically able. Admittedly, the Fall might constrain some people in some of these areas, but those people should still try to be good stewards of their bodies to the best of their ability with what they have.
Why is this so important? We preach to the culture around us that we have self-control to refrain from the passions and desires of our flesh, but too many of us make an exception for self-control in the area of physical health. How can we exhort people to have self-control in spiritual matters when we stand in front of them overweight, out of shape and with no self-control in physical matters? Additionally, if you are a good steward of your body, your physical health will give you more energy and endurance to make culture and share Christ with your neighbors.
For many people, controlling physical appetites is easier than fighting sin. For such people, if they are unable to practice self-control in the relatively easy matters of eating and exercise, then they may be unable to practice self-control in the more difficult areas like “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19–21). Let’s practice what we preach when it comes to self-control with both our bodies and our lives.
God has created us body and soul. All human beings are created in the image of God, and by this doctrine all people are valuable to God. As Christians, we understand that we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and all of our lives belong under his Lordship. Therefore, we should honor God in all aspects of our lives, and this includes taking care of our bodies. Christians should be better stewards of our bodies because we know that they are temples, valuable and a testimony of our relationship to Christ for others to see.
So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)