There is a line in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians that reads: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
In our world today, we often find ourselves wondering about belonging. When we see tragic events unfolding in various countries, we wonder if that will come near to us, maybe even engulf us. When we see and hear of war, starvation, heartless oppression of the poor, or painful illness, we wonder if we belong. In the news recently I have been reading of an outbreak of the Ebola virus which kills with seemingly random efficiency. When one person comes down with a fever, others around them quickly move out of the danger zone and the person is left to suffer on their own. They must ask themselves, as I know I would, “Is there no one who will stand with me? Is there no one who will say I belong to them and they will not abandon me?”
One of the most common “illnesses” of the soul is the pain of loneliness. The pain can arise in any number of ways.
- It can come from our sense of alienation from a close friend due to a conflict of opinion.
- It can arise from being alone in a big city. Everything familiar has been left behind and now even in a pressing crowd, the loneliness is painful.
- It can come from being confined in a prison cell. The loneliness engulfs us and overwhelms even the strongest person.
- It can arise from one’s experience of a family structure that leaves one feeling abandoned in the midst of what should and could be one of the places with the best comfort level.
- Name your own issue here. We all have one or fifty.
In the Church, we train people, both men and women, to be physicians of the soul. In the church we discover that the pain of loneliness can be overcome by the power of a God who calls us his children, who has bought us at a price that is called “blood money.” God bought us with the life-blood of his Son, Jesus. Now we are not our own, we belong to God. He gives to the church gifted people who can discern our loneliness and find ways of treating that very real illness.
In the Bible, we discover God addressing our deepest issue of loneliness again and again. Do you know why? What happens when we are lonely? We become afraid. In the Bible we find God saying again and again, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.” Not just a few times, over 350 times. Each time God calls us to not be afraid, he always adds a line about his presence. We discover in our very hearts God’s holy presence. We are, says the Apostle Paul, a temple of the Holy Spirit. We are not our own, we belong to God as his personal residence in the world today.
I Am Not My Own
In Old Testament times, the mountain of Zion was spoken of as God’s residence on earth. If you were going to send an email to God, it needed to go to the email account @templemount.jerusalem. Since the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus after which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church, the bodies of God’s people, all over the earth, are where God is living in his holy temple.
For centuries the Church has used a series of questions and answers as a method of teaching the principles of the Christian faith. There are many such catechisms found in various religious communities around the earth. One that I am very familiar with is one that is 450 years old now. It has been in use for centuries in many churches all over the earth. It is called the Heidelberg Catechism. It begins with the following question and answer.
Q & A 1
Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
What is so interesting to me is that 450 years ago, the first issue to be addressed in the training of Christians about what it meant to be a Jesus follower was loneliness and belonging. “I am not my own, but I belong…” No matter what comes my way, no matter how desperate my feelings of loneliness, no matter if I stray far from God, as a Christian I belong to Jesus. I am now a temple of the Holy Spirit. Even if all humans may forsake me and run in fear because of something that is going on with me, God says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you. Your very body is my temple. I bought you with a price. So glorify Me with your body.”