Being a Temple

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.
Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, New International Version

For years, this passage confused me. Its pious language doesn’t make much sense when read as-is, and so prior to studying it further, I always though this passage meant that I needed to take care of my body by eating well and exercising regularly. In other words, I thought it was simple.

I’m learning that passages in the Bible rarely mean what I think they mean when I read them without understanding their contextual or historical background.

In order to fully grasp the significance of this passage and how it relates to this concept of “image” that we’ve been talking about this quarter, it is important to study the history of the temple. By understanding how the Jewish people and early Christians viewed the temple, we can better understand this passage and apply it to our lives today.

In the very beginning, when God created everything, the Bible tells us that He actually lived with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:8) But when Adam and Eve sinned, they eliminated the ability for God to live physically in their midst. After God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, He commanded them to build the Tabernacle – a fancy tent that they would erect during their journey to the Promised Land. (Exodus 26) It was in the Tabernacle that God took up residence, once again living physically with His people under the covenant He created with Moses. 

Once the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, God commanded Solomon to build a more permanent place for Him – the Temple. (1 Kings 6) It was here that, for hundreds of years, God lived physically with His people. After Jesus died and was resurrected, the Temple, once the most iconic and significant landmark of the Jewish faith, was taken by Rome and reduced to utter ruins. With the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the first Christians in Acts 2, God sends a very clear message: it is now in the hearts of His people where He resides. 

Now, all this context is great (especially for us Bible-history nerds), but how does this passage make sense when we think about our twenty-first century bodies?

What Paul is saying in this passage is that we honor God with our bodies when we make space for Him to live inside of us. When we create a space for God, we have His assurance that He will physically live there; He doesn’t simply watch us from afar or leave us on our own to get through life. Instead, He chooses to occupy the space we have designated for Him, walk through life with us, and exist within the confines of our humanity. 

The question is: am I a space where God can dwell? Is there room – in my schedule, my thoughts, my finances, and the way I live my life – for God in me? Am I a temple, or am I a cluttered closet with no space for God to reside in? 

These are questions we have to ask ourselves if we want to honor God with our bodies. It’s about more than healthy diets and regular exercise (although, of course these are important). If we want to honor God with our bodies, we must actually change the composition of our entire structure so that God can reside in us without competing or being squeezed out by the things of this world. 

Sister, God wants to dwell in you. The Bible shows over and over that our Father actively seeks ways to live with His children, and you are not excluded from that. It may be hard, but once you invite God into that space, He will help you declutter and rearrange so that He can live not just in a corner of your life, but as the sole proprietor of your temple.

Scripture taken from the New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.