1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (ESV) – 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
It’s an election year here in the United States of America, and it may be the most divided our country has ever been. We are not simply divided down the two party lines of the past nor even the geographic lines during the Civil War era; the divisions that exists today are multi-faceted and complicated. Sanders vs. Clinton, Trump vs. Rubio vs. Cruz vs. Kaisach vs. Bush vs. etc. etc. etc… And there are just as many people who are against a single candidate or multiple candidates as they are for any one candidate.
There was once a wise, and well-respected candidate who once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand…” Of course, that candidate was also making a biblical reference while doing so, but I digress…
When I look at the Church, I think we face a similar problem. We are a people woefully divided over theology, methodology, ecclesiology, and even the labels we will use to describe ourselves. We are, at times, worse than Red Sox fans who blast the Yankee fans or the Auburn fans who with extreme vitriol bemoan the ignorance of the Alabama fan. We are, at times, worse than the Democrats who deride their Republican counterparts for being anti-progress, or the Republicans who rail against the Democratic opponent for a lack of patriotism and guts.
The Church divides along boundaries that run centuries deep and then again along lines that run decades deep and then again along lines of ethnic and regional significance. It’s not simply about denominations or associations… it’s worse because we cloister ourselves in our holy huddles and cast dispersions on those who we should treat as brothers and sisters.
In the Corinthian church, the divisions ran deep too. They had divisions surrounding who brought them to faith, the immorality of some the members, and the disparity of wealth between some – among other things. The divisions led to lawsuits and slanderous activity of all kinds, and while Paul never condones sinful behavior, he consistently reminds the church in Corinth that they are one. In the above passage he takes it to another level by calling them the Temple of God.
In all religions, a temple is a holy place… a place set aside for worship and community… a place of communion and unity. The Church – not just individual congregations – are called to that task. It’s not easy. We have to look past the superficial differences between us. We have to decide what are open-handed and close-fisted ideologies over which communion is not possible. But the more we come together the brighter witness we can be in the world.