The call to service and sacrifice can be difficult enough without bringing our bodies into it. And yet, there it is in Scripture, an invitation to “to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1, ESV). Paul describes physical sacrifice as our “spiritual act of worship.” He unifies our spiritual with our physical selves, grounding the spirit in real life and making sacred the body.

Many of us have an ambivalent relationship with our physical forms. Glamour mags infamously deepen the wedge between beauty and beholder. The post-fall body itself betrays us with aches, scars, sicknesses, and disease. I think of my sweet friend, whose womb denies her the children she longs for, and of my ever-strong grandfather’s astonishment when his legs at last refused to bear him.

It’s easier for us to push our bodies to the wayside. It’s easier to capitulate to the lingering Gnosticism that divides what God has joined—the spiritual from the physical—and falsely elevates the former. The Age of the Enlightenment is centuries behind us, but our worship of reason continues; I know of no seminary courses covering the theology of bunions and orgasm.

Yet our bodies, no less than our minds and spirits, are the instruments God uses to bring life to the world. Last month, I knelt on the cold tile of a bathroom floor, lowing and rocking, my cervix burning fiercely as I worked to deliver the tiny stranger who turned out to be my son. My whole mental, emotional, and particularly physical self labored to give life to another.

I believe every man and woman of us is called to a similar labor. While childbirth provides a visceral image of the demands of giving life, partnering ...

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