Sunday, 26 December 2021
Temple of the Holy Spirit
Today's verses address a completely different and, some would say, somewhat neglected corner of the forest. Part, if you like, of the Apostolic Holiness Code - a bit scattered, but parallel to the well-known chapters in the book of Leviticus - this concerns the way that the disciples of Yeshua should dress and behave.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 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.
With the modern drive for autonomy and the pursuit of individual 'rights', it is more convenient to forget that we have obligations to three other parties. The first, of course, is God Himself. Contrary to popular opinion that God really doesn't care what clothes we wear or what our bodies look like - this is surely a trivial matter of personal choice and taste and everyone else just needs to control themselves and stop judging others - Paul seems here to be saying that, actually, G-d does care because He owns us and has paid for us. Our bodies, our clothes, our language and behaviour - all these are opportunities either to kiddush HaShem, to sanctify the name or chillul HaShem, to desecrate or bring disrespect to the name: the name of God.
When we behave, dress and speak modestly, gently, respectfully and generously, we bring honour to God's name; when we behave, speak or dress immodestly, boastfully, revealingly or brashly, we desecrate God's name for we bring Him disrespect and dishonour for we are called by His name.
Secondly, we have a responsibility to fellow believers. We are to help them, rather than hinder them in their walk, not offering either temptation or a reason for criticism or judgement. In the area of clothing, this means dressing modestly and comfortably, wearing age and gender appropriate clothing, not pretending to be be something that we aren't, so that - in particular - we don't provoke or encourage other people to act in an inappropriate way. Regardless of their responsbility to control their behaviour, which is certainly incumbent upon them, if somepone does or says something that we or others find offensive or abusive as a result of our dress or undress, our language or behaviour, we will be held accountable for placing a stumbling block in a fellow believer's path.
Thirdly, we also have a responsibility for the wider world. Our dress, language and behaviour can be - and frequently is - observed and taken as typical of believers. This can cause others to reject the cal of the gospel on their own lives, using us as an excuse. Others judge us against the standards they imaginatively expect believers will display and, when we fall short, they class us as hypocits or no different to themselves and God becomes effectively invisible to them.
We think that we have choice in these areas - and, of course, in a certain sense we do - but we over-exercise it to our peril, putting others at risk and bringing God's name into disrepute. Instead of asking what do these clothes, words or habits say about us - important though that is - we need to think about what it says about Yeshua. Would He wear these clothes? Would He use this language? Would He behave in that way or be seen in that place?
"We are not out own; we were bought with a price," Paul says. God gets to call the shots and set the standards. We are called to glorify Him in our bodies.