You are a temple of the Holy Spirit
First St Johns February 23, 2014
“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”, that’s a tall order Father, what does it mean to be “holy”? How are we to be “holy”? Too often we rely on our own understanding and inevitably find how far off we are. Satan tries to control our understanding of who You are, what we are in You, “Did God really say?” Satan mocks us with this and since we really don’t know, we wonder, we wander, we question where we really shouldn’t be questioning. Help us Lord, to turn to You, to understand that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and there are things we should be grounded in, forgiveness Your Word. Help me, Your minister to Your people, to teach and preach well, exhorting, rebuking, not giving in to the world, to what’s popular. We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father… and all who are a temple of the Holy Spirit sd Amen
We have to remember that what Jesus is saying here is decidedly contrary to current beliefs, what contemporary society would tell you. And as much as those pious ones out there today, who will try to sell you that they are all about Jesus’ words, when they really read them and put them into context, it’s clear that their life doesn’t reflect their words.
So the issue here is how much does our real life stack up against Jesus’ words. I will tell you right up front that I fall plenty short. Paul tells us we are “God’s temple”. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you? …God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.” Heady stuff, almost scary. Paul is telling us that we are God’s temple and that temple is holy, that’s an intimidating idea, if we are bearers of the Holy Spirit, if we are God’s temple, how are we supposed to treat that temple?
Jesus is addressing that issue. If we are God’s temple, then we are going to have to expect that it is God working through us, that He is going to be working through us to His glory, He is going to be using you to draw others to Him, in order to do that, yes you are different, you are not like the average day-to-day, the rest of the world sees in their slices of the world. God is going to move you to be different with people and part of that means living as the Holy Spirit guides you which is in keeping with what Jesus taught.
The story is told by Chuck Swindoll and J Vernon McGee: “a successful Irish boxer was converted and became a preacher. He happened to be in a new town setting up his evangelistic tent when a couple of tough thugs noticed what he was doing. Knowing nothing of his background, they made a few insulting remarks. The Irishman merely turned and looked at them. Pressing his luck, one of the bullies took a swing and struck a glancing blow on one side of the ex-boxer’s face. He shook it off and said nothing as he stuck out his jaw. The fellow took another glancing blow on the other side. At that point the preacher swiftly took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves and announced, ‘The Lord gave me no further instructions.’ Whop!”
This entire pericope of Jesus’ is just so counter-cultural to first century Israel, to any period since then, and just as much today. Why on earth would I forgive someone who deprives me of sight or maybe my ability to eat? Why would I just rollover and let someone take my tunic, my cloak? Why would I let that happen? Of course the short form answer is, “Because Jesus tells us to.” Jesus is God, Jesus is telling us what to do, if God wants us to do things a certain way, it’s going to ultimately be in our best interests to do it. Now before you get too puckered, you, me and Jesus, most of all, recognizes that we are not going follow this to the letter, we are imperfect creatures and we will only follow imperfectly. Having said that we should all set high goals. Does that mean we always meet high goals? No! But it does mean that we will strive higher than we would have otherwise. We are to grow in Christ, that’s an important part of being a Christian. So we strive to achieve that, the person that hits us up for something important to us, we are more likely to think what we can do for that person. I’m not saying be a dope about it, because there are people out there who will play you and prey on your Christianity, but I feel the pulling of the Holy Spirit, He whose temple I am, and I try to serve that person. Jesus tells us “ya take the hit”. And obviously Jesus is making a bit of a metaphor here, but it’s going to bring the heat down a little if you don’t just react to a “hit”. Sometimes people do things in the heat of passion and lash out. It doesn’t serve anyone to turn the heat up in the situation by hitting back. I’ve noticed that today, with everyone and I’m guilty of it too. Someone will say something and we’re really not listening to what is really being said, because we’re more focused on our response, on our wise crack back. One of the things that I keep learning is how to read people better. What I might take as a verbal hit is really intended for something else. How can I help that person by not reacting and just lashing back? James tells us: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” I’ve had the experience when I had wished the person had just punched me in the face then say to me the hurtful thing they just said. I know it’s just so cool today to engage in verbal sparring. What you think may be cute or clever means you weren’t really listening, you weren’t really reaching out to that person in love the way the Holy Spirit who is a part of you wants you to react. And I’m not saying that you should take the example of our Irish boxer, let the other person get in a couple of shots and then let them have it? No! Show some genuine Christian understanding and tell them “I hear you saying… and I want you to know that I understand your feelings and that does not mean I love you less and that you are not loved by Jesus any less.
It’s interesting that Jesus says if someone slaps you on the “right” cheek. For example the Bible refers to the “right hand of fellowship”, we confess that Jesus sits on the right hand of God the Father. The right side has always been considered to be the good side, honorable, it meant that to hit on the right side was to be especially insulting, to attack what is best. I’m sure you know that left-handed people have been considered to be a little odd, not good, that it’s normal to be right-handed. As those who are saved in Jesus, He who died a brutal humiliating death as the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins and to give us eternal salvation in the resurrection, who endured insult after insult, shame after shame, for us to decide that we are better than our Lord and strike back anyone who offends us, is to mean that; sure Jesus our Lord, He can endure insult, but I can’t. I’m special and I shouldn’t have to endure this affront. We are not more special than the Lord, we are called to take the slap to the right cheek and the Lord’s instructions, by the way are to continue to endure the blows, just as Jesus did from His arrest to His death. Is there any doubt that Jesus was struck more than once? He was struck in front of the High Priest, He was flogged by Pilate, He was struck repeatedly by the guards who were mocking Him, read John 18 and 19 how Jesus was continually beaten. Are we above the Lord who asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him, above Stephen who was being stoned said: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we are saved by our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us. Guillaume Williams points out: “Sin has so deluded our minds that even when we think we know what we are doing, we really do not. If we really knew the consequences of our actions, we would not do the sinful things we do.”1 Sin distorts us so much we just lash back instead of remembering Jesus’ guiding. As is always the case it’s not what we do, it’s what Jesus does to and through us. When you feel that urge to fire one back, and not over the bow, but right into the waterline, ask yourself, am I so special that I can’t forgive? Then turn it over to the Father, saying: “in my own strength Father, I cannot forgive this person, please do it for me.” We grow in holiness like Him.
Take some time this week in your journal, who should you be forgiving, list all the names out, ya, I’m going to be spending awhile on this. For each person you list, write next to the name, Father forgive this person, I rely on Your strength.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.
1Guillaume Williams Simply Believe “The Lutheran Witness” January 24, 2014 p 6