Thursday, December 14, 2017


For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. 

I'm not hurting any body! 

In this part of his pastoral letter to the Thessalonians, Paul isn't telling the new Christians what to believe, but how to live out their faith. They, like us, are living in the in-between time, after Jesus’ resurrection but before his second coming. Paul is urging the Thessalonians to live Godly lives in response to the grace that God has given them. They are to abstain from lustful, passionate and exploitive relationships. They are to honor the bodies of the people around them and not use others for their own pleasure.

Not exploiting people is harder than it might first appear. While many of us would never engage in sexual fertility rites like the pagan worshippers in Thessalonica, exploitation of other people's bodies still exists. Recent headlines about sexual assault are a testament to the way women’s (and some men’s) bodies are taken advantage of even today. Human trafficking is still an issue during the Superbowl.

It can be easy for many of us to think that we are quite different from the Thessalonians or those who make unwanted sexual advances or hire prostitutes, but many of us are complicit in the same sin, just to a different degree. We may feel like we have a moral high ground if we have heteronormative, culturally appropriate, mutually fulfilling sexual relationships. We are pretty sure we aren't hurting any body. 

But the truth is, even the most chaste, faithful or respectful among us depends on other people’s bodies. In order to make the everyday things we buy and use affordable, we end up exploiting the bodies of other people. Our grapes and tomatoes and t-shirts and shoes came at a cost to someone else's body. And while it's not the horrible violation of sexual abuse, the exploitative nature of our economy is not holy.

The people who harvest our food, make our clothes or (even closer to home) care for our children are working for our benefit. Their bodies go and do what ours cannot, for whatever reason. Too often hese workers earn less than a living wage, work in questionable conditions and face the painful side effects of their jobs on their bodies without health insurance. If they are overseas, the conditions may be even worse. 

It's easy to be self-righteous knowing that we are kind and respectful to the people we encounter. But how we depend upon and treat the bodies we don't see in our everyday economic choices is something many of us need to think and pray about. Myself included.

Photo credit: Broadus Mattison 
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