By some people’s standards my parents were considered “strict” when I was growing up. My twin brother and I were no strangers to getting into trouble as a kid, but most of my spankings were for 2 reasons: my smart mouth (which still gets me into trouble today) and misbehaving in church (which I’m not sure I’ve completely outgrown either). I started going to church before I was born so I know the “church rules” well and you’ll find me trying to enforce them with my own kids on any given Sunday.
My kids greatly outnumber me. My husband, their Dad, is the preacher so it’s me and the 5 Posties together during the service. They are all growing up and beginning to find ways to serve, so it’s getting easier, but those youngest 2 of mine have a tendency to want to run in the church. They see their Dad and they sprint down the aisle while I’m trying NOT to yell at them to stop running in church.
I’m not sure who came up with the “no running in church” rule, but once we hit a certain age as church-goers, we all know it is a rule to live by. There’s a lot of rules at church that have come to pass because church-goers want to show respect for “the Lord’s house”. Although church attire is more casual these days, the generations before me wore their Sunday best to church and was reverent when inside the church building.
There is much beauty in this and I believe with all my heart that we should be good stewards of the facilities that God has given us to use for worship and outreach. But where we worship…that’s a building, and God won’t smite anyone for running in a building or wearing blue jeans (my preferred attire 😉).
Church buildings are not in the same category as the Temple in the Old Testament. The Temple in the Old Testament was the place where the Spirit of God LIVED. If you want to see some rules, then take a look at those, because God was very, very serious about honoring this sacred space. It was meant to have the utmost respect.
So the thing I’ve been wrestling with lately are these 2 questions: What is sacred space and how do we respect it? From passages in the OT we see clearly that God set apart the space where He intersected with earth. It was holy and sacred and He expected people to treat it as such. So where does His spirit intersect with earth today? 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us this:
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Those are some powerful words. I don’t belong to God. He lives in me and therefore my body is sacred space. How do I honor God with my body? I’ve been in organized church ministry for almost 30 years and I’ve seen good people take a lot of time caring for the “church building” and not caring for the Temple of the Living God, their body or their spirit. I’ve also seen good people put a lot of energy into taking care of a building, nearly making it their idol, and not focus on the people inside the building or in the community surrounding it. I think we’ve gotten off track somehow.
What if we respected the Temple of the Living God, our body, the way that we respect the church building? What if we didn’t make our bodies an idol, but focused on the Spirit within us? How much better might we be able to serve God if we make our priorities the same as His priorities and honor the space that He calls sacred?
So this begs the question: How do we honor God with our bodies? Maybe if we eat healthy (the things HE actually made for us to eat), get enough sleep, rest, exercise, just to name a few. Also, to grab hold of the concept that Paul lays out in Ephesians 5 when he reminds us that nothing should have control over us but the power of the Holy Spirit. That my friends, can include many things…including food. If I can’t live without my coffee or sugar then something is controlling me and I have an addiction. Wow! Is this making you as uncomfortable as it is making me?
Even though we should respect our bodies and care for them as the Temple of the Living God, we shouldn’t worship them. If taking care of our bodies consumes so much of our attention that there’s little time left to spend with the Spirit of God, then we have another problem. It’s a tough balance to figure out how to do these things. We want to enjoy the food around us, but don’t want it to destroy us. It’s conflicting. I help people lose weight at my job….and I have 2 Girl Scouts at home who want to sell 300 boxes of cookies! Trust me, I KNOW how conflicting this can be!
In short, we take care of our church buildings, we respect them, but we don’t worship them or become obsessed with them. This applies to our physical bodies as well. If we care for them properly with what we eat, but not worship them it become obsessed with our bodies for our own benefit, then we are freed up to be better servants of the Living God that lives within us.
Take care of your sacred space, friends. You’ve been entrusted. It is the only Temple you have and you are the only caretaker. I’ve failed miserably at this for years, but with God’s revealed purpose and conviction comes His power. May He give you strength to honor Him with your body as you follow His command. I’m cheering you on!
Photo via Visualhunt