Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have. (Luke 24:39 CSB)
When Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb, God was eternally declaring his love for the physical world. God was not joining himself with humanity temporarily, but eternally. In other words, when Jesus became a man, He became one forever. For the rest of eternity He will be fully God and fully man.
As Christians, we can have a tendency to pit the spiritual and material against each other.
Once I was in a small group when a guy said— My body is just a shell for my soul. My soul is what God really cares about.
People nodded. One girl said— Oh! I love the way you put that! — then wrote it in her journal.
The problem is, that’s not what the Bible actually teaches. God made the material world and called it “good”. He promised the Israelites a land with milk and honey. He entered a womb. He grew in stature. He fed people. He rose from the dead physically, with a glorious body. He promises His followers a glorious body like His. He will return someday to make a new earth.
See, for the Christian, we don’t believe that the spiritual is good and the material is unimportant. As Christians, things like temperature, lighting, music, flavor, smell, soft and hard… they matter! They’re real and important!
God loves and cares for the spiritual and material.
And this has huge implications.
- We ought to think carefully about how we relate to the environment. How should we treat plants and animals? How should we care for the sky, oceans, lakes, and rivers?
- We ought to think carefully about how we construct our churches. What should the architecture be like? What should the space be like? What about the lighting? What about the music?
- We ought to think carefully about how we treat our bodies. Are we caring for ourselves physically? Are we abstaining from sexual immorality?
- We ought to think carefully about consumerism. How should we use our money? What kinds of homes should we build/buy? How many “toys” and how much “stuff” should we have?
- We ought to think carefully about how we care for others’ material and spiritual needs. How can we effectively show people the gospel with our actions? How can we effectively tell people the gospel with our words? Both are important. The gospel must be heard in order to be believed, but the truthfulness of our words is validated by the love of our actions.
Christianity is a wonderfully wise, complex way of seeing the world.
We can’t totally reject the material world and call it evil or unimportant, because God made it and entered it, permanently validating it. And yet we can’t only embrace the material world because it’s not all there is. There’s an unseen spiritual world that’s eternal and important.
In Jesus, both the spiritual and material come together marvelously. Heaven and earth, perfectly unified.