16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
(1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
When I was a kid, Rule #1 of church building etiquette was "No running in the church building." It always struck me as funny that this was also rule #1 at the pool (where committed Christians wouldn't go anyway), though I never suspected any connection between the two. We were always told that the reason for the rue was the danger of knocking into some old person. I never heard of that ever happening, though perhaps it did. But I suspect that the "no running" rule had more to do with the fact that the church building was viewed as a special and holy place that wasn't to be desecrated by a bunch of kids having fun. We didn't have a sanctuary per se; we had an auditorium. But we pretty much treated the church building as if it were a sacred place, a sanctuary. I clearly remember the song the kids sang as they left the auditorium to go to their classes during VBS-- “Tiptoe, tiptoe in God’s house…”
Well, we don't follow Rule #1 at Denbigh. We got rid of our pews five years ago; we sold them to a church being rebuilt in Louisiana after Katrina. We replaced the pews with chairs that can be stacked and rolled out of the way. So now everything from VBS fun-and-games to teen laser-tag lock-ins to my 50th birthday party are held right there in the auditorium. We still call it “the auditorium because the term "worship center" for our little facility sounds too... sanctimonious. But we definitely don't see it as a sanctuary anymore. And now sometimes old people (like me) get bowled over by kids who are not tip-toeing in God's house!
The church building isn't special, but the church definitely is! In the verse above (part of today’s Bible reading), Paul says that the church is the temple of God in which He lives by His Spirit. To fracture fellowship and disrupt unity with our fusses and feuds (sometimes over how we use the building) desecrates and disrespect God's holy temple. That is Paul very point here! The church at Corinth was splintered by any number of issues and arguments that destroyed their unity and compromised their witness to the world. Paul says that such disharmony is like spray painting graffiti all over the temple of God.
The church through the years has had no shortage of issues that have become wedges that have driven disciples apart and honest seekers away. Very few (if any at all) of those issues have been anywhere near as serious as has been our ignoring God's clarion call to unity. We are the temple of God. Let's not allow God's holy temple to defiled by disunity.
Lord, teach your children to stop their fighting,
Start uniting all as oneLet's get together living forever,As sanctuaries for youO Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary,Pure and holy, tried and trueWith thanksgiving I'll be a livingSanctuary for You.