God’s Building, God’s Temple

November 10th, 2014 Posted in writing

St. Paul wrote the Corinthian Christian community that they were God’s building and God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3). He used these images to help the church he’d founded at Corinth understand and appreciate who they were. At first sight, comparing a community to a material structure like a building or temple may seem to be a stretch. But the two images have something to tell us today.

First, “God’s building” is a way of saying the community belongs to God. It is God’s building, God’s place, and we can find him there. Notice, though, that Paul doesn’t say that the Christian community is the only place where God is. The Catholic teaching is that God lives and acts in countless places, including many non-Catholic and non-Christian religious traditions, and among all people who strive to live the best lives they can.

Second, to say that the community is “God’s temple” means that it is the place where God and the people come together “more formally” and where, through prayer and worship, we who follow Jesus find our common faith strengthened and we experience ourselves as one community despite our many different personalities and talents. It is where God creates us as church over and over again.

So, if the Christian community is where God lives and continues to create a single body out of many individuals, then it makes sense for Paul to call his Corinthian Christians the building and temple of God. And in our own day, these images can help us more deeply understand and appreciate who we are.

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