Christian Track: Easter Hope for the Body

Contributor: W. Travis Stewart, LPC, owner of Revision Recovery Coaching

La gallina di Pasqua dalle uova di cioccolatoOne Easter, when my children were in early elementary school, my wife and I helped them make Resurrection Rolls. Each roll is made from crescent roll dough, a little cinnamon and sugar and a marshmallow.

While rolling up the dough around the marshmallow you tell the story of Jesus dying and being buried in a grave and the Jewish tradition of applying spices to a body after death.

While placing the marshmallow into the roll you read the Bible passage of Jesus’ body being placed in the tomb and closed and sealed by the Roman guard. Then you place it in the oven. While the roll bakes you discuss how his disciples must have felt after his crucifixion and how crushing death can be.

We Have Hope

But it is not over. After the timer goes off, you remove the baked rolls from the oven and open them to find… that the marshmallow is gone (it has melted) and the tomb is empty! Jesus is alive and we have hope.

But what does this really mean for those of the Christian faith? What can those who struggle with body image and eating disorders learn from this remembrance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus?

From the story of Easter we discover at least three critical and relevant teachings of the Christian faith:

  • The importance of the body
  • The healing of the physical world
  • An invitation to a new life

The Importance of the Body

summerfield-336672_640From the early years of the church some have attempted to minimize the importance of the human, physical body. In the first century people called Gnostics argued that the body (and the physical world as a whole) was evil and to be avoided.

Later, others taught that the body and our physical needs must be controlled in order to be truly spiritual. More recently, some have taught that to be concerned with the human body is sinful and silly since we will one day (in heaven) no longer have bodies but just be spirits.

Good Friday and Easter

However, the Bible, and the story of Good Friday and Easter, tell a much different story. Christians believe that Jesus was God incarnate. The word incarnate comes from the Greek, meaning “made flesh”. Jesus was God in a body. This fact alone shows that God delights in the body. He created it and inhabited it. He chose to dwell in a body.

Not only is the body important, but it is critical to the salvation story. Jesus did not just indwell human flesh but, chose the life and death of that flesh as the means of accomplishing salvation. The death of his body on a cross is how forgiveness of sins is provided. The physical body is central to the story God is telling!

And finally, the body is so important that God refused to allow the body of Jesus to remain in the grave. Easter is all about the raising of a body from death. Jesus rose with a resurrected body— and still has it! God, in Jesus the risen Son, is happy to dwell in a human physical body for all eternity!

Living as Disembodied Spirits

Portrait of a young manWhat does this mean for you? Those with an eating disorder face death daily; some literally but all spiritually. Self-hatred, fear, anxiety, secrets, shame; all of these are forms of death. Mostly they feel a hatred to their own body.

Because of this, many wish that they could have no body at all and live as a disembodied spirit. That feels like the only release from the daily hell they experience.

To deal with this pain they are told they need to “learn to love” their bodies. This can be helpful and is certainly well-intended but it falls far short of the promise of Easter. The empty tomb and the resurrected body of Jesus tell us a far greater story.

A New Body

N.T. Wright says, “What creation needs is neither abandonment nor evolution but rather redemption and renewal; and this is both promised and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is what the whole world’s waiting for.

Here’s what he means; contentment with your physical body will not come either from changing it (evolution) or ignoring it (abandonment) but rather through your heart and your body becoming new.

The resurrection of Jesus is a model and foreshadowing of what will happen to the hearts and bodies of Christians. God is in the business of giving us new hearts and new bodies. When Jesus stepped out of the tomb he was promising us that we too, would one day step out of death into life—a beautiful, full, physical life that we will not be afraid to embrace.

An Invitation to a New Life

young beautiful brunette woman with smart phoneFor Christians, Easter is not simply a remembering of what Jesus has done on the cross and in conquering death but, is rather a “symbol and starting point of the new world.”

Easter means you are invited to trust God with your body. It means that you are invited to step out of the tomb of darkness, secrecy and shame.

Easter means you are to trust that your body is good, just as it is, but that one day it will be even better than you can imagine—and not because you will have a flat stomach or a thigh gap, but because you will be able to fully inhabit the body God has given you and be free of fear and anxiety.

You will be able to confidently love others without wondering if they are judging your appearance. You will be able to use your body to serve, and love, and embrace and live fully in a beautiful, physical, fully alive world.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How has looking at your body from a biblical perspective impacted your recovery?

About the Author:

W. Travis Stewart received both a Masters of Counseling and a Masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He has worked as a therapist in the field of eating disorders since 2003.

To hear Travis talk more about this subject you can listen to his talk, The Glory of the Human Body.

Eating Disorder Hope is proud to announce the initiation of a special Christian Track of blogs and articles to commemorate our 10th year of being blessed with such a special community of those in or searching for eating disorder recovery. Watch for further special blogs noted as “Christian Track”.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 31st, 2015
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