Where I live, snow in February is inevitable. This morning’s rising sun shines across the drifts that have been smoothed by the wind. I think of the marvel of no two snowflakes alike (can that be verified?) and the greater marvel that one snowflake by itself, while lovely, is insignificant. Only when many of these crystal beauties collect together do they make an impact, for good or otherwise.
The church of Jesus Christ is similar. Each of us who truly believe are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who changes us from sinners to disciples. Because of that, the entire church becomes the temple of God. (Note: in these verses, ‘you’ is plural…)
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17)
God’s temple is made up of many individuals in whom Christ dwells. Because of the Holy Spirit, individuals might be lovely people, but like snowflakes, our power is not in our individuality. The biblical metaphor is that we are like a body with each member needing the others. Eyes, ears, toes and hands cannot function by themselves.
Curious, I searched ‘images’ on the Internet using “temple” and was amazed at the variety that I found: tall, short, wide, thin, gold, white, many colors, ornate and plain. Man-made temples come in all sizes and shapes. So it is with individuals, but again, these verses are not about individuals. The ‘you’ is plural.
Because of the Holy Spirit, each individual has something in common with the others. I’m always amazed at the instant rapport He produces when meeting other Christians, whether in our local church or in other places, even other cultures. One recent Sunday we sat at an empty table (our church has brunch together after each worship service). Soon we were joined by a Korean Christian, then a Christian from Thailand, one from China, and one from Canada who plans to soon leave to minister in another part of the world. Anyone listening to the conversation without seeing the faces would have thought we were all from the same family.
Yet like snowflakes, we are not exactly the same either. We vary in appearance, personality, background experiences, education, and in God-given gifts and abilities. This passage lists several…
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:4–8)
A few weeks ago, our pastor challenged each one to consider what they can do as part of the body of Christ. He showed us a video with the same challenge, and the speaker’s punch line was: “The local church is the hope of the world.”
That is something like Paul’s challenge in 1 Corinthians to their local church. The above verses are set in a context of rebuke and admonition. He tells them to aim higher for they had been divided with their members in conflict with one another. Paul told them they were acting sinfully instead of focusing on one-upmanship, they needed to live in the power of Christ. He reminds them that they are God’s temple, and that by themselves have nothing going for them. That is, without the Spirit, they are nothing, but with the Spirit, everything is theirs. They could be the hope of the world — but only if they cooperate with God and rely on Him.
Today’s local churches need to be reminded of our high calling. We also need to be reminded of the resources we have in Christ. We have the Spirit of the Lord living in us! We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. We can be the hope of the world, but none of us can do this alone.
Point taken: I need to quit thinking like an individual flake and more in terms of a large, powerful and beautiful snow drift.