Day 18

The Temple of the Living God

from the reading plan

1 Corinthians 3:9-17, 2 Corinthians 6:16-18, John 4:20-24, 1 Chronicles 29:2, 1 Peter 2:4-5, Ephesians 2:19-22

I never thought I’d get the chance to travel to Europe, but several years ago, I found myself there on a family trip. It was one of the most humbling and eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had. There was a lot to see and experience, but one type of building drew my attention without fail, every single time—I’d see a beautiful, old (they’re all old) church. Cathedrals, basilicas, and chapels were all over the place. The stained glass windows, ornate wood carvings and perfectly chiseled stonework drew me in. Most of the time, the doors were open or at least unlocked. Candles flickered inside, and huge, vaulted ceilings and colorful symbols decorated the spaces within. Golden fixtures, masterwork paintings, and enormous crosses constantly robbed my breath.

The churches I saw are the one takeaway from this trip that I still can’t get out of my head. These breathtaking structures were built as places for worship and for experiencing God’s presence. The idea that God was present within these venerable walls stirred and challenged me. It was soothing—yet somewhat incomplete. Today’s reading caused all of these feelings to stir inside of me again, and through God’s Word, I now have some insight into that experience.

I am accustomed to associating God’s presence with physical sanctuaries—the places I saw in Europe and the places we find ourselves in on Sunday mornings. First Corinthians 3 challenges me to shift my spiritual perspective. Paul isn’t talking about brick and mortar; he’s referring to us, the believers: “Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s temple and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (v.16).

This reframes our understanding of how God’s presence is active today. God doesn’t confine His dwelling to buildings made by human hands, no matter how ornate or steeped in religious tradition they may be. Rather, under the new covenant, He chooses to reside within each one of us: the living, breathing temples fashioned by His own hands.

Imagine that! Greater than any cathedral’s towering spires, any temple’s ornate carvings or altars, God has chosen the human heart for His dwelling place. He isn’t contained within walls. He walks in us and among us (2 Corinthians 6:16).

I write this reflection to myself as well as to you: the next time we find ourselves in awe of a religious structure or feel God’s presence in one, remember that He, in all His majesty and glory, chose to make His home within us. I don’t feel particularly worthy of such honor, but this is the profound truth of God in His grace, humbling and empowering in equal measures. This is mercy. This is salvation.

Maybe we should look at ourselves and each other through this divine lens—as living temples, carrying the Spirit of the Most High God.

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