I find myself increasingly allergic to Christian jargon. Not because I can’t guess at what the person might mean when they pray that we would be ‘covered by the blood of Jesus,’ for example, but because it feels lazy not to use plain language that comes from a place of understanding. Jargon feels like it so often masks a lack of understanding; we take a phrase that was once pregnant with multi-layered meaning and reduce it to an unexamined facsimile of theological truth. I fear that the stock phrases we bandy about have lost any of the punch they once had. Can’t we just say what we mean, in words that anyone could understand?
When our kids were young, I loved the way it forced me to find simple terms to explain the big and complex things in life. While it isn’t easy, I wonder if it is a sign of our true grasp of complex truths that we are able to explain them in ways a 6 year old can catch? Perhaps this is why I love the work of The Bible Project so much; those guys do a fantastic job of explaining deep concepts in simple ways.
Here’s another phrase we might hear: our bodies are the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit.’ That’s not something I would disagree with, it’s scriptural after all. But what does it mean? Taken more or less at face value, we use the phrase to express the belief that the Spirit of God dwells in us, in the way He was known to be present in the Old Testament temple. God used to stick around in a building, but since Pentecost He’s living in people.
The thing I don’t like about this unexamined version is that, while it’s true, it implies that our bodies are just incidental containers for spiritual things. As though the shell - one’s physical self - is simply a convenient resting place for the ‘true me’ - my psycho-spiritual self.
What if our bodies are more than that? Could it be that this flesh and blood is actually the principle training ground for our spiritual formation?
When the writer of the book of Hebrews was trying to find a way to describe maturity in a follower of Jesus, he used body imagery. “Solid food,” he wrote, “belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” It strikes me that there are ways we practice using our five physical senses to tell the difference between what is good and life-giving, and what is evil or destructive.