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By Mark Cornelison

People applauded. I mean that literally. They clapped, and I even heard a small cheer. This was the context: I was leading a parent meeting, of all things, and they were applauding. I honestly don’t think that’s ever happened to me before. So now you’re probably wondering: “What in the world did you say or do that caused such a reaction—because I’d love to receive applause from parents, too!”

Here’s the scoop: On our way to camp each year, our youth group usually stops at a popular fast-food pizza buffet for lunch. It’s on the way, it’s quick, and it’s cheap—everything youth workers look for in a restaurant. However, for the most part, this place is also very unhealthy. So I simply told parents I couldn’t go that route again this year. We found a place with healthier menu options. It wasn’t quite as convenient, and it was a little more expensive. But it gave our young people (and me) a chance to make better choices.

That’s why parents were applauding. That unexpected response made me realize something pretty important: This journey to a healthier lifestyle and life isn’t just about me. My choices—past, present, and future—have far-reaching impacts.

Likewise, what I’ve been doing as a youth worker affects me (of course, but it also affects many lives around me. Although I shouldn’t take the blame for other people’s choices, I must own my responsibility when it’s called for. If I truly believe our bodies are unique, special creations of God, I should take exceptional care of mine but also challenge and help others take care of theirs. As pastors, mentors, teachers, friends, and family members, we have to remember the power of our example: “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly” James 3:1(NLT).

The standard set before us in James 3 sounds rather tough, but it’s true. As teachers, we’re held to a different standard. We must always be aware that as we work on ourselves, God is also moving through us to work in the lives of others.

So make a commitment to healthy living for yourself and for your fellow brothers and sisters. Keep moving forward—and get ready to hear some unexpected applause. ◊

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