Over the years, the church has earned the reputation of being slow to react to cultural changes and needs. Some would throw out numbers like ten or twenty years behind the times—and I have a gut feeling that it’s fairly accurate. Maybe we’re lazy, maybe we fear change too much, or maybe we’re just so overwhelmed with the never-ending list of needs and demands that adding to it is just too depressing. And yet, I think there is an issue we need to face as youth workers passionately concerned about the young people God has called us to—youth obesity.
Youth obesity is quickly becoming a national crisis. This generation of middle school students actually has a shorter life span than their parents as a direct result of the health consequences of obesity. Currently, over thirty percent of children are overweight or obese, but that number is expected to be closer to fifty percent by 2010! On an annual basis, ten times as many children are being diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes). And according to another study, a quarter of children between the ages of five and ten are already showing early signs of heart disease.
Every organization out there that has anything to do with young people is scrambling to find a way to save the health of our nation’s children, but to no avail. That is every organization but one—the church. As a whole we’ve been strangely quiet. Yes, there are plenty of Christian diet books for adults, and we’ve got some resources on eating disorders and body image – but other than that, there isn’t much.
That’s troubling to me because it reflects either an indifference to a desperate need of the children we are called to, or it shows a lack of understanding of the deeply spiritual significance that the care of our bodies, the temple of a holy and sacred God, deserves!
You see, unlike any other group out there, we are called to a different understanding of the body! We aren’t calling young people to a healthy lifestyle so they won’t get diabetes or heart disease—we call them to a healthy lifestyle because how we care for our bodies is a part of our worship of God! When I recognize the truth of the teaching in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, that my body is literally a sacred temple of God and I treat it as such, I am giving honor and glory to God. The care of our “temples” is not some painful chore to be dreaded and suffered through, it is a joyful and natural result of the recognition that regardless of our looks and shapes, our bodies are the holy and sacred dwelling place of God!
When we live with that understanding, every meal time, every time of exercise and physical activity becomes part of our worship, a loving and thankful honoring of God’s call to treat His temple as just that—God’s!