Around these parts, sometimes we have to go looking for law/gospel illustrations in the nooks and crannies of the popular world. Sometimes, though, they come and browbeat us. Such is the case with the annual ESPN “Body” issue, on newsstands now. A “celebration of the athletic form,” the Body Issue is supposed to be, I think, an equal-opportunity (and more obviously sports-oriented) answer to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Oh, and there aren’t any swimsuits. Birthday suits only, in this one.

Interestingly (perhaps) is the fact that it’s not really the athletes bodies themselves that are the law to me. I hope that our female readers are as able to dismiss Kate Upton’s proportions as I am to dismiss Rob Gronkowski’s. The Body Issue, though, is even a level more nefarious than the Swimsuit Edition, in my opinion. In its desire to do more than simply objectify its models, the issue focuses on what it takes to “create and maintain” those bodies. At first blush, this is a nice touch, clarifying the fact that while God’s gift certainly contributes to a glorious physique, it takes a lot of work to maintain the gift. But then, as you digest the articles surrounding the photos, a new law (ht Derek Webb) emerges.

While I don’t beat myself up (too much) about not having the body of Gronkowski or Jose Bautista, I feel really badly about not even having the remotest desire to work as hard as they do…or at all. Indeed, if my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (and again, I’m content for my temple to be St. Olaf the Slightly Bloated rather than St. Adonis the Sculpted), then my temple has cobwebs in the corners, a crumbling foundation, and Brazil-style trash blowing around it.  It is, you might say, um…neglected.

Physical attractiveness is one of the most universally-felt laws in the world. We all too often feel inferior (and therefore judged) for our looks. ESPN has taken it one step further and made us feel judged for our efforts, too. The Good News is that we are as justified in the face of our failure of effort as we are for the insufficiency of the end result.