I bet you could easily list the topics that aren’t spoken about in church. I bet you could easily name the topics that are typically talked about in pretty negative tones too.
Today, I’m going to touch one of those “topics-that-shall-not-be-talked-about.” Actually, it a category of topics – stewardship of the body.
Please understand, I’m not hear to tell you what to do. That’s not my job, my role, nor do would I ever enjoy that. Plus, the odds are that you’ve heard that speech before. And even better odds are you went away from that speech feeling like crap, angry at the speaker, or just dismissed the person because they acted like a Pharisee – “do as I say”…
Instead, I want to ask a few questions and offer some reflection.
Why don’t churches talk about stewardship of the body? This seems like something important. Maybe it’s because we would have to open up about “difficult” topics like sex, food and eating, drugs, exercise, addiction, etc. These are tough topics for Americans to talk about. It’s so much easier to laugh about them when someone cracks a joke about any of these on a sitcom isn’t it? It eases the tension. But it doesn’t actually make us face our own fears.
What is stewardship of the body? As I reflect on this, my definition of stewardship of the body is this – I’ve been given this body by God to go through life. It is not just a part of who I am that will go away after I die, as if I can escape it. It is me, just as my mind is me, my spirit is me, and my soul is me. All of them together make up who I am – a unique creation. Stewardship of the body means taking care of my body in a way that respects what God has given me.
I believe the church has a big opportunity when it comes to stewardship of the body. Health is a big focus and rightly so. You can read some great articles about health in the workplace – here’s one example. Pretty innovative stuff. But there is something missing. Just as there is something missing in all of the health-related articles out there. Before I get to that, let me share with you one more thing.
If you think people in church aren’t interested in health, think again. Just one example – the interest in organized running races. It’s no secret that marathons and other distance runs have grown in popularity over the last several decades. People care about their health and they are will to do some crazy things. Think I’m lying? Check out this picture:
This is the picture at the start line of the Helsinki marathon in August, 2014. But it could have been the picture of the start line of any major city in the world. The crowds at these things are amazing. And the beauty of this is that these are “average” people, not super athletes, or professionals. They have jobs like everyone else. They are moms and dads, sons and daughters and even some grandparents.
Here’s something else to note – 99.9% of the people running these races aren’t running them to win. They know they don’t have a prayer, nor do they really care about that. That’s not what it’s about. They do it to test themselves, to be healthy, as a challenge, etc. There are probably as many reasons as there are people.
A few paragraphs ago I said that there was something missing. What’s missing in all of this is the wholeness of the person. So often, work-related health initiatives, marathons, exercise programs, diets, etc focus solely on the physical side of things – the body. Science is really good at explaining so many things about the body. But science can’t tell us about the intangibles of a person and how they relate to the body.
We have big challenges in the US – we have girls who have an unhealthy view of their body. We have a weight problem. We have food portions that are larger than ever. We have people obsessed with exercise to the point that it is their religion. We have all sorts of challenges when it comes to the body. And we have a church that oftentimes seems to think about health as if this many people are interested:
The people are interested. But also scared and uncertain. We, as a church, have an opportunity to walk alongside people on their journey of life. We have an opportunity to broach the subjects that everyone is afraid to talk about. When we do, I bet we’ll be amazed at the sigh of relief that people will have. Not because we have all the answers, but because we are willing to face the fears that people have with them. We’re willing to show our own humanity too.
Ultimately, the biggest fear we all have and one that relates specifically to the body, is death. If we stop kidding ourselves, this is the reason why we do all the health-related activity – to delay death. We fear that death is final and that there is nothing after it. This is where the church has a unique opportunity because we claim to believe that Jesus overcame death. We claim that death can be beaten because of what Jesus did.
When we start with that in mind, it makes the conversation about the body a bit different. We don’t have to do all sorts of crazy things in order to save ourselves and beat death – Jesus already did that for us. We can look at who we are, what our capabilities are, what we are called to and then look at how we are called to stewardship of the body.