Concerned about Wholes not Just Souls
In the 2nd Century of the church there was a false doctrine being spread through the church called Gnosticism. At the heart of their teaching there was a belief that matter was evil and spirit was good. The effect this teaching had on the church was huge. One of the outcomes was that salvation was simply about saving a person’s inner soul, and that the physical body was actually evil. Gnostics would claim that true salvation comes by escaping your body and eventually escaping earth. Hence the highest form of Gnosticism was all about having personal inner spiritual experiences. The Gnostics basically said, forget this World and discover your inner reality.
This message was not the message of the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount was all about outward experiences not simply inward reflections. The Sermon on the Mount was not waiting to escape this World but how we might love and serve this World. The Sermon on the Mount was God saying I am reclaiming this World because it is good and it is my lovely creation. Whereas Gnosticism was about self-discovery, Jesus taught about redemption and forgiveness of the whole person. Jesus was just as concerned with how we lived in the outward as he was with the inward. Redemption of the whole person would show its fruit not in inner discovery but outward physical acts of the body. Jesus said blessed are the merciful. Jesus did not want us simply reflecting on mercy but actually showing it. Jesus also said to give to the needy and not judge others. Now it is super when we can memorize these two commands, but Jesus wanted us to practice these two commands. Jesus makes the point over and over about the concern for outward expressions of spirituality rather than finding your inner self. Jesus said do not lust, be a peacemaker, do not to allow your mind to worry about things God has under control. All of these show that Jesus wanted his followers to focus on the whole not just the soul.
In an age where people are looking for hope the church has an opportunity to show them the love of Christ. If we will truly live out the message of the Sermon on the Mount we will save both body and soul. We will find that spiritual fulfillment comes not as we look in, but by how we look out.