“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). This is a particularly pointed and poignant passage for us living in this period of time. It is a sad reality that our times will go down in history as having given birth to a vigorous culture of death with its popular and legal assents to, among other things, abortion and doctor assisted suicides. Do we not know that we are the temples of God? Or, are we, quite simply, in full rebellion from God? If so, should we be surprised that we are also suffering the consequences of these prideful attitudes in a myriad of ways today? These questions are of paramount importance to us as Christians living in these times.
The God of Christianity is a God of life. The evidence is everywhere. It is he who created all life, who sustains it, and who inspires it with purpose and meaning. And we, more than any other creature in the universe, are his beloved, his chosen ones, his children. His orientation toward us is, was, and always will be, one of unconditional love. This we know and believe and have the evidence for in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That unconditional love marks and reveals God’s absolute orientation toward life, especially toward every single human life. It is his love for life and for us that make his sacrifice on the cross meaningful.
The Spirit of God was given to the Church at Pentecost. That same Spirit was given to each one of us on the occasion of our baptisms. The Spirit took up his dwelling in us as Christians at our baptisms in a particular, personal, and intimate way. We truly are temples of God. Can we not, then, hear Paul’s question echoing in our deepest conscience, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God?” It is because of this that we Christians are called upon to support, honor, promote, and defend life at every stage, from conception to natural death. This is covered clearly under Jesus’ commandment to us to love one another as he loved us. How do we understand the passage, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), if not as a divine assent to the life of every human being? That assent of God to life was directed both to our mortal lives, as he, himself, took on our nature, even unto death, and to our eternal lives won for us by Jesus on the cross. We Christians are called upon to imitate this assent of life with our own lives.
God’s assent of life also includes our attitude and our use of nature. Wendell Berry, a farmer, poet, essayist, and profound Christian writes eloquently about this in many of his essays and poems. He writes in his long essay The Presence of Nature in the Natural World: A Long Conversation, about “the Gospel’s paramount moral commandment (Matthew 22:39) that we must love our neighbor as ourselves, even when our neighbors happen to be our enemies. This neighborly love cannot be a merely human transaction, for you cannot love your neighbor while you destroy the earth and its community of creatures on which you and your neighbor mutually depend.” We Christians are called upon to cultivate a culture of life in our attitudes toward one another, and toward all of God’s creation. We must practice a profound love for life, yes, even for its suffering, for that is what God does, then, now, and forever. This is our calling. We are to honor the gift of life by loving all life with all of our thoughts, all of our words, and all of our deeds. This is what it means to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. This is the imitation of Christ that Christians are called upon to live.
To you, O God of life, we lift up our hands in joyful and humble prayer. Give us the wisdom to see the value of all life, especially human life, and the courage to promote it, to support it, and to defend it with our own lives. Make us worthy examples of your love of life to those who defy that love in this culture today. In you alone do we find our truest meaning and purpose. We pray, as always, in the life giving name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen!
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