A man was walking in a large city’s downtown. The city was a-hum with activity, people coming and going. Cars and trucks up and down the street, transporting people and goods here and there. There were retail shops alive with people coming and going. As the man continued on his way he saw a sign. The sign indicated that some construction work was being done overhead and one needed to be aware of falling debris from the worksite and the potential for injury. As such, the man looked up warily as his stride quickened through the construction zone. As he walked, looking up with anxiety, he failed to see the open manhole that he fell into.
There is the old saying “He is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good!” seems appropriate here. I used to cringe at this saying - I was in a season where God was really blowing on the vertical of my faith - the relationship between myself and Him. I was learning to walk by the Spirit and in faith in a deeper way. It also seemed that anything that buffeted that aspect of my faith development was a tool of the enemy when in fact, they were gifts. Gifts to help me live the reality of my vertical relationship with the Father in the real world I lived in - the idea that healthy Christian spirituality is as much a vertical relationship with God that connects us in a deeper, more meaningful way with our physical or horizontal world. Healthy spirituality always brings about wholeness and doesn’t seek to divide us soul/spirit (vertical) from flesh / physical (horizontal). Unfortunately this thinking, so prominent in western christianity, finds its roots in Greek, platonic thought more than anything else. Because the Church has been so influenced (like much of the rest of the western world) by Greek thinking, many of these thought became entrenched in the way we see ourselves, God and the world around us.
God, however, created us as whole people - wholly spirit and wholly physical and this can be a bit of a mystery for us. As such, it became helpful to break us into parts - not real parts per sae but terms that we can talk about various aspects of the whole person without these demarcations taking on hard and fast boundaries. We are all mostly familiar with this when we speak of flesh, soul and spirit for example.
However, this great picture gets distorted and hi-jacked by Greek thinking that says the body is bad - corrupted and the spirit is good -and thus is born a theology that suggests the body is something to be escaped and we retreat to the spirit. This is often where we go off the rails as we abandon the physical resurrection of the body - a central Christian doctrine - and we speak of the spirit departing to be with God when we die. We have also misinterpreted Paul's words when he speaks of the flesh. Often, when Paul talks about flesh he is talking about us creating our own righteousness to earn Gods love and favour, or how we use other people and things in attempt to satisfy the longings that only God can satisfy. This is not a condemnation of our physicality!
The thinking that villain-izes the physical self and the world negates the reality that we were intentionally created physical beings as well. As such, we were designed to interact as whole people (spirit and physicality) with God and with the rest of creation. The incarnation - God as human in Jesus - might give us a clue to this intention as well - that God is at work restoring all of creation, reconciling all of creation to Himself in Christ. He also is working through us as the people of God, the Easter people to be burning torches, signpost of this good news - people who live vertically and horizontally, who look up and look out. People who are whole and wholly alive.