The Teen Body and the Incarnation

In a society that focuses on external appearance, with the media setting unrealistic standards of “beauty”, teens struggle with “body image”: weight, shape, skin, hair . . . [Maybe you do too.]

What in the world does the Incarnation, God’s coming to earth in human form in the person of Jesus, have to do with a teen’s body image? Everything! Because in coming to earth as a human being God told us that the body is something to be valued.

We should already know this from the tender, loving, personal way in which God created humans: forming the body of the first man “of dust from the ground and breathing into his nostrils the breath of life”, then making a woman from a piece of bone and flesh taken from the side of the man (Genesis 2:7, 22). We know it also from Psalms: He “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). But the fact that God himself came to earth and took on a body like our bodies – mine, yours, your teen’s – gives our bodies even more value.

Jesus’ body, like ours, was formed in his mother’s womb. How amazing, that God would come to earth that way! Jesus was conceived differently, without a human father, but otherwise his first nine months were the same as ours! He was born as each of us was born, although his first hours of life were in a manger, not a crib (Luke 2:12). He grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). He experienced every stage of human development from childhood through puberty and adolescence to adulthood. At Christmas we should think not only about the spiritual significance of the Incarnation (Immanuel – God with us) but also about the significance for our bodies of the fact that God took on human form. What difference does this make in how teens think about their bodies? What we think influences what we do.

Some Christmas questions for your teen:

  • Do I accept my body, warts and all? I am like Jesus.
  • Do I respect my body? I will not allow my body to be used as an object for someone else’s curiosity or sexual pleasure.
  • Do I respect the bodies of others? I will not embarrass or harass or abuse another.
  • Do I take care of my body? It is a gift from God.
  • Do I think about what it means that my body is the “temple” of the Holy Spirit? Do I glorify God in my body? (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • Do I think about my body as a vehicle of blessing for others, rather than as “eye candy” for someone I like? Or as a source of competition for my peers?

“We are earthen vessels that are given the extraordinary privilege and honor of bearing the love of God himself in our eyes, our toes, and all the other members that make us up.” (Matthew Lee Anderson, Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith, p. 229).

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