This post is sponsored by STDcheck.com, a fantastic website that provides information and resources for quick, confidential, and affordable STD testing. Abundant life includes sexual health, and body positivity can’t exist without sex positivity. So go to STDcheck.com and show your body some love.
Like so many twenty-somethings who grew up in the evangelical church, I never received the HPV vaccine when I was a teenager. You see, we were all Very Good Christians back in 2006 when Gardasil was approved for the prevention of human papillomavirus (one of the most common sexually transmitted infections), and Really Truly Very Good Christians had no need to take any preventative measures against STIs. We wouldn’t be having sex until we were married, after all. “True Love Waits” was the mantra, which meant that our future spouses were certainly saving their virginity for us as well. Things like consent, contraception, and sexual health were simply not up for discussion.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God?
This quote from the Apostle Paul was often used as justification for our harmful, sex-negative way of thinking. In so many of our churches and youth groups, this theologically rich and deeply fascinating phrase functionally came to mean “Don’t drink, smoke, have sex, or do drugs, and no tattoos except for maybe if they’re in Greek or Hebrew and about Jesus.” We learned that to honor God with our bodies was to ignore our bodily desires. We learned that our flesh could not be trusted and that its natural processes were symptoms of our depravity. We learned that holiness and virginity were synonymous. We learned secrecy, shame, and self-loathing. And we definitely did not learn about HPV.
Now, as an adult with a bit of distance from the evangelical world, it all seems so incredibly strange. How was it that being a living, breathing dwelling place of the Divine—a manifestation of God’s love on earth and an image-bearer of the Creator of the universe— was somehow anything but empowering? It seems odd that none of us ever considered what our embarrassment and fear of God’s temples said about our flawed idea of who God was.
As we enter the season of Advent, we enter a time of anticipating the incarnation of Christ, when the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Advent tells us that we can find hope in a God who came to earth in a physical, human body; a body that grew and changed and ate and drank. A body that created and built. A body that ached, loved, wept, and laughed. A body that took naps and cooked breakfast for friends. A body that still had wounds after the resurrection. A body that Christ himself described as a temple, destroyed and rebuilt. A body that spoke and said, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the fullest.”
The secrecy, shame, and self-loathing that purity culture taught us cannot co-exist with the abundant life that Christ came to give us. Perhaps honoring God with our bodies first requires us to honor the body itself. Perhaps we honor God, not by denying ourselves goodness and pleasure, but by taking responsibility for our sexual health and education, by committing to the requirements of consent and respect, and by learning to love the Image of God in the souls and bodies of others. Hear me out, maybe we honor God when we get our HPV vaccines.
Don’t you know that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit?
Don’t you know that the temple is sacred because it is where the sacred is experienced?
Blessed is your beautiful, Image-bearing body. Blessed is your sexual health. Blessed is your agency. Blessed is your power, your pleasure, your healing, and your joy. For you are a temple of the Divine, an embodiment of love, and a locus of the presence of the Holy.