There is a tendency in the world of spirituality to split a person into parts. You are not only a person; you also have a spirit, soul, heart, brain, emotions, passions, body, flesh, and more. Each part of our humanity is compartmentalize so that it lives on its own. Then, when we look at each other, we assume that we are all just separate pieces barely holding together. We assume that God looks at us the same way. Faith deals with the different parts of us (our soul, our spirit, our beliefs) in different ways. This splitting up of the human person is an old idea. It comes from Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, who put an ideal world (the place of the soul) in competition with the real world. The real world is broken, messy, and imperfect. The abstract/spirit world is perfect and the goal of life is to live (and get) to that perfect world. This thinking still exists in the church. When we talk about the afterlife, heaven is described as a nicer version of our world. Sometimes, when we feel tension in our lives, we quote Matthew 26:41 – “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” When we split ourselves into different parts, we act as if these different parts matter in different ways to God. We say that God cares more about our soul than our body. We claim that our broken body gets in the way of our faith. Faith is a mater only for the soul and it mostly ignores (or criticizes) our body. When we separate ourselves into parts, we believe that God cares only about part of us as well.
In Freedom of a Christian, Luther borrowed the language of soul and body. But unlike his peers, Luther refused to separate the two. Instead, he considered the whole human person. You are a body, mind, spirit, and heart. You are a totality. You experience life as a complete unit and people experience you as a complete unit too. In this passage from the Freedom of a Christian, Luther is talking about the spiritual connection faith brings us. But this faith does more than keep our soul close to God. This faith, like a heated iron that glows when it is placed in fire, causes our entire being to love God and serve our neighbor. Faith, for the Christian, is the fuel for everyday living. With faith, we can love. With faith, we can serve. And the faith that God gives us is a gracious gift, helping us to do the impossible: trust that, through everything, God is still here and that God still loves.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings/other readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for Second Sunday in Lent, 2/25/2018.