A Temple of the Holy Spirit

“Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit”. This is something I was told regularly growing up, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that the meaning of it really hit home. 

I had never reflected deeply on this concept, but as an adult, I realised that this had affected my life in ways I hadn’t noticed. I only noticed it when I encountered people who had clearly never heard that before, and certainly didn’t treat their body like the temple of the Holy Spirit. Working in healthcare, I have had more than my fair share of insight into how people knowingly and unknowingly neglect their body. 

Some Christian heresies have even gone far enough to say that “the body is evil” (Gnosticism), taking the instruction to “cut off your hand if it causes you to sin” a little too far. The body is a vessel through which horrific sins can be performed, it is also the way through which we can enact powerful acts of mercy and examples of Christ’s love to others. 

One way we can start this is by purely giving our own body the respect it deserves. You may think that you already do this. But this self-respect is a discipline of mastery that requires constant effort. Think…

“Do I give my body the respect it deserves by feeding it with good, nutritious food and water?”

“Do I give my body the respect it deserves by keeping it active and giving it appropriate rest?”

“Do I give my body the respect it deserves by staying disciplined and not giving into weaknesses and temptations of my mind?”

“Do I give my body the respect it deserves by dressing it in a way that shows I value it?”

“Do I give my body the respect it deserves by not putting it in unnecessarily dangerous situations, such a driving recklessly or poisoning it with drugs?”

“Do I give my body the respect it deserves by not overindulging through any of my senses – my sight, my hearing, my mouth, my touch?”

Although we might shudder to think about how others might desecrate a church with vandalism or arson, these are the ways we desecrate our own body, which is also meant to be a temple.

Since being told as a little child that my body was a temple, there are plenty of ways that I have not treated it as so throughout my life. But coming back to this mantra, and reflecting upon what it really means, I see how if we hold it to be true, it can affect so many of our actions and habits. 

Does this mean we can never touch a packet of chips again? No way!

Like the practice of all virtues, we are called to find the balance. Athletes push their bodies to phenomenal extremes that might be irresponsible of someone who has a certain medical condition. A grown man will be able to eat far more than myself before he is being gluttonous. Wearing a swimsuit whilst doing laps at the pool is modest, when wearing it to a funeral would be highly inappropriate. These are all circumstances of moderation and consideration when treating our body with the respect it deserves.

So how do we put this into practice? 

Listen to the Holy Spirit – the one you want to invite into your temple. Perhaps start with the above questions. Say them out loud, bring them to prayer, and see what thoughts or emotions they stir. Don’t push the thoughts and feelings aside. Sit with them. Do certain questions bother you more than the others? Perhaps there is something to unpack there. Perhaps you can reflect on your weekly diet and be satisfied with it, but the weakness and temptations of your mind immediately make you think of behaviours that you don’t want to think about. Reflect on why that is, and consider what your life might look like if you made some changes. 

Treating our body like a temple of the Holy Spirit is so much more than eating some veggies and going for a run. It is a holistic approach that will reform us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Elise is a medical student from rural NSW. She likes to take every chance she can to be outside – playing sport, gardening, or enjoying a good book.

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