Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (From the Daily Office Readings, Mar. 2, 2012, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Although I’ve seen this text used (with others) as the foundation for what used to be called “muscular Christianity” (the idea that individual pursuit of physical strength and health are part of the proper Christian life), this text does not state that an individual person is a temple, but rather that a congregation of Christians forms a temple of the Spirit; the pronoun “you” in these verses is in the plural! The first sentence of verse 17 places God’s ultimate condemnation on any individual that damages or destroys a congregation through internal strife or bickering. A congregation of Christians is holy, and its holiness is not to be treated lightly by its members. They should treat one another with respect and dignity, even in the face of disrespect and wrongful treatment. Remember Christ’s admonition to Peter to forgive a brother or sister seventy times seven times. (Matthew 18:22) Paul here shares a metaphor with Peter who wrote to the whole church that all members should, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2:5) Of course, before stones can be built into a temple, they must be formed and fitted; they must be measured and squared. As living stones, we have the obligation (especially during this season of Lent) to perform this work on ourselves; we are called to do so by responding to God’s grace in Christ Jesus, who is the foundation of our spiritual house, by spiritual growth, faithful living, and testimony to the world. All of that and forgiveness one to another! It is not easy being a living temple! It’s hard work!