As we are made in the image and likeness of God, our very being, our essence, as it were, can be said to represent God, serving as a natural temple of God. It is not, however, the only way we can be understood as temples of God. For, when Paul said, “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16b RSV), he was talking about the special way Christians are temples of God. For Christians are baptized into Christ, into the body of Christ, and are to receive, as Christ did, a special relationship with the Holy Spirit, whereby the presence of the Spirit, through their relationship with Christ, makes them temples of the Holy Spirit, receiving with the Holy spirit, the treasury of the kingdom of God.
Having become a place, as it were, that the Spirit can be found active in the world, we are to engage the Spirit, like Christ engaged the Spirit, allowing her to direct our actions, to go where she would send us, doing what we can to share the gifts of the Spirit in order to elevate the world around us. We are not meant to keep the Holy Spirit locked within, but rather, to take the holiness and grace we receive in her presence, and share it with the world. For, one of the ways holiness can be seen to spread in the world is through encountering someone or something which has that holiness within; this is what makes various relics holy, for they came in contact with such radiant holiness, they became vessels of that holiness themselves. And so, Christians, those who have been baptized into Christ, those who have joined themselves to the body of Christ, and then have afterward been chrismated or confirmed (sealed with the Holy Spirit), are temples of God, both in accordance to their human nature, but also through their sacramental relationship with God.
If we are to continue to be holy, indeed, to grow in holiness, we must not strangle the Spirit, that is, prevent her work in our lives. We must resist the call of sin, the call of unlove. For the Spirit is the Spirit of love, and if we are to embrace holiness, then we must embrace love, for holiness is the glory of that love. We are not to touch anything unclean. We must not merely reads that admonition is a legalistic sense where we divide the world between the clean and unclean and hide ourselves from all that is in the world because we fear it is unclean, but rather, because we are not to touch the things which come out of unlove, such as hate, anger, malice, greed, envy, and the like. That is, we must not follow those impulses or temptations which take us away from the path of holiness, the path of love. If we embrace them, we defile ourselves from the taint which comes out of such unlove, and so profane the temple within. This, then, is how we should engage Paul when he said, “Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18 RSB).
God is a God of love, and so to be seen as children of God, to be known as children of God, that love must become manifest in us. It is not, as some think, that various people, places, and things, in themselves, are unholy. It is the unholiness of unlove which taints things, corrupting them and making them, as it were, unclean, and it is this unholiness, this unlove, which we must cast away, and we must first do so in ourselves. Then we can and will exemplify God in all that we do. Is this, after all, not something which Jesus did when he let the Canaanite woman demonstrate that everyone should receive his blessings? Those who are looked down upon by society are not to be rejected, but are to receive their share of holiness. Jesus, obviously, was not opposed to the Canaanite woman, which is why he could and would bless her, but rather, he wanted to make her act, to show everyone in her words that everyone can and should receive their share of holiness which comes from the Spirit:
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly (Matt. 15: 21-28 RSV).
Jesus, therefore, healed the woman’s daughter, thanks to her great faith, a faith which showed that the holiness of God could and would spread throughout the world and not just where Jesus was at in his earthly ministry. The Canaanite woman might have used words of self-derision, but her point was not self-destructive; rather, they were pointing out, even if she accepted what was said of her, because she was a Canaanite, God’s love was still meant for her, as it was meant for all. She was ready to accept it, embrace it, and become a vessel of it, which she did. She, who was looked down upon society as unholy, became holier than many of those who thought themselves to be holy, and who, in their supposed holiness, were not willing to embrace the world and those within it.
Everyone can come to Christ and by healed by him. Everyone can come to Christ and be elevated by him. Even if we think little of ourselves, God is willing to give us grace so that through it, we can be made great. Those are unjustly derided as being unholy, of being unworthy of such grace, should find Christ can and will welcome them. He will give them spiritual nourishment. He will make them holy and turn them into temples of God who can then realize their true place in the world. We must not confuse what is unclean with people, but with the defilement of sin; people are to be embraced, embraced with love, so that they can then share in the grace of the Spirit and through it become transformed into temples of God. If this were not the case, because we all sin, no one would be able to receive the presence of the Spirit in their lives, no one would be a temple of God, and the work of the incarnation would prove impossible.
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