April 07, 2015

People: More than Just Souls to Be Won

Post by Brittany Tedesco

There've been very few times in my life that I've made donations to non-Christian charities. The charities could be doing really good work, like feeding the hungry or providing clean water to those without it. And yet, the gospel isn't presented alongside this aid. These charities are only addressing a person's body, while ignoring their spirit.

On the other hand, I steer clear of ministries who only address the spiritual aspect of a person while ignoring the person's physical needs.

Ours is a culture that likes to separate the elements that comprise a human being, as though one aspect (such as the spirit) doesn't affect the other (such as the body) and vice versa.

Just look at how our culture views sex: as nothing more than a physical act that has no effect on our spirits and souls.

Because we have the Word of God to guide and teach us, we know this is far from the truth of what really happens during sexual intimacy. We know that "the two become one flesh."

But it's not like we're suddenly attached to each other like conjoined twins, so how exactly does that whole "two become one" thing happen?

Actually, this union of two souls can be studied physiologically in the body. You've probably heard of the chemical oxytocin, otherwise known as the "bonding chemical." This chemical is released in the body during sex and creates that warm feeling of connection with the other person.

What you might not know about oxytocin is that it actually alters "the neurological connections in our brains," according to Rob Moll, author of What Your Body Knows about God. "Bonding to another person requires the undoing of a number of brain pathways," and oxytocin "enables us to undo any behaviors and attitudes that would prevent us from fully bonding and attaching to those we love."

Once again, science backs up what's written in God's Word. This same science helps us understand just how destructive having multiple sexual partners ("fornication," in old speak) is to a person's core being. In Proverbs 6:32, we're told that a person can actually destroy his own soul through sexual immorality.

In describing the elements that comprise a human being, Moll writes that we are "animated by the breath of God (spirit); we think rationally (mind) and feel (heart), and we have a personhood (soul). These aren't puzzle pieces that can be pulled apart and fit back together."

The Apostle Paul warned the early church in Colossae against the teachings of a group of people we know as the Gnostics. Part of their teaching involved their view of matter as being inherently evil—and because the body was matter, the body was evil. The spirit, however, was considered to be good and impervious to defilement by anything the body did.

Sound anything like our culture today? I know I can subconsciously take on this ancient (and modern) view that my body doesn't have an effect on my spirit and soul. It's a lot more convenient that way. Otherwise, I have to be vigilant about the things I allow my eyes to see and ears to hear. I have to take much more responsibility to "guard my heart," as Scripture says, through the action of my body.

I believe that what happens to, and what we do with, our bodies has much more of a profound effect on the other elements of our being than we realize. And science is only confirming this.

For instance, most of us have been taught that our brains direct our thoughts and tell our bodies what to do and how to feel. Nothing could be further from the truth, Moll writes. "We think with our feelings, and our feelings are nothing more than the state of our bodies." For instance, the way we know we're angry is because our brains detect our "tensed and poised muscles, quickened heartbeat, and respiration." In the same way, our brains know we're feeling joy because of a bodily state that includes "a peaceful relaxation of our muscles, a smile, a posture of openness." According to neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, bodily actions precede and guide our cognitive thinking.

A well-known New York Times article from 1988 reports "new" research on the importance of touch. "The findings may help explain the long-noted syndrome in which infants deprived of direct human contact grow slowly and even die." This research "suggests that certain brain chemicals released by touch, or others released in its absence, may account for these infants' failure to thrive."

According to psychology professor, Louis Cozolino, "Light touch and comfortable warmth lead to increases in oxytocin and endorphins that enhance social bonds through an association with a feeling of well-being."

Hmm. . . so if I'm correctly processing this information, I could assume that the positive treatment of one's body could lead to the release of chemicals in the brain associated with positive emotions. . . and actually cause one to be more receptive to, say, the message of the gospel, than if their body was ignored.

When our Lord Jesus healed the "lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others" that were laid at His feet, "they glorified the God of Israel" (Matthew 15:30-31 NKJV).

Jesus connected the faith (spiritual) of many people with their healing (physical), by telling them that their faith had made them well.

Before healing a paralytic (Matthew 9:2), Jesus told him his sins were forgiven.

He saw people as whole beings, not just souls to be "won." He met a person's physical need in conjunction with their spiritual need.

He physically protects a woman caught in the act of adultery from being stoned by self-righteous prigs, and then addresses her spiritual state by telling her that He doesn't condemn her, but she's to go and sin no more (John 8:3-11).

For days, Jesus spiritually fed a crowd of 4,000 people, hungry for His words, but He also recognized their physical hunger. "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat" (Matthew 15:32 NKJV). And so, He performed a miracle to satiate the hunger of each person present.

Consider this passage in Isaiah that Jesus read concerning Himself in the synagogue: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed."

Does this prophetic passage not describe Jesus' ministry to both people's bodies and spirits?

After Jesus casts a legion of demons out of a tormented man, the man longs to stay with Jesus. Our Savior told him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you" (Mark 5:19 NKJV).

Romans 2:4 tells us that it is the goodness of God that leads people to repentance. And we know that God most often uses people to display His compassion and goodness.

Nearly all, if not all, of the indigenous ministries supported by Christian Aid Mission are engaged in acts that minister to people's bodies, like feeding, clothing, drilling wells, providing medical care, etc., while ministering to their spirits through the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This, I believe, is the right approach to ministry, and it's why I support Christian Aid Mission. I stand behind the work we assist with all of my heart. . . soul, mind, body, and spirit.