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Until the Lord Comes


This is my fifth in a series of short reflection papers for one of my classes this semester: Theology and the Body.

Because many early Christians believed that the return of Christ was imminent, one wonders exactly why these communities emphasized the temporal body as they did. Even though they felt the world, and with it, human bodies, would pass away at any moment, there were still very specific rules that Christians were to follow that related to the physical body.


Whether it was the specific way in which a new Christian was to be baptized, the understanding of the sexual body as a shameful instrument, or the belief that bodily acts could poison an entire church, early Christianity regarded the body with seriousness, if not fear. One would assume this would logically not be the case if the very same flesh and bones would return to dust at the parousia.

However, the same is true today. In churches that believe very seriously in a 'second coming' of Christ, there is also an emphasis on bodily care. Many churches who believe that the world is passing away also boast fitness facilities. Words from a pulpit regarding the rapture could be followed by words of a weight-loss workshop. And, most of these same churches will be full of bodies every Sunday that are adorned in designer clothes.

If the end of the world is nigh, then why not spend time fasting, praying and preparing, rather that working out, losing weight, and looking good? While much of the modern notion of bodily care is also very closely related to the capitalist marketing pressures that form the backgrounds of most of our lives, for the early church, the motivation seemed to be more liturgical than commercial. Unfortunately, today, much of theologically-justified bodily care is perpetuated by the temptation of culture itself.

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