I was thinking about the Lord’s prayer this morning and something clicked. Nothing too profound, but it amazes me at how brilliant Jesus was.
In Jewish thought, the Temple was the place where heaven and earth met. It was where God dwelt. Yet, Jesus knew that the Temple system had become distorted and corrupted. He taught his students that the Temple system was broken:
And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” — Mark 11:17
The Temple was supposed to be a place of prayer, a place where heaven and earth kissed for the blessing of the nations. But it was corrupted. So what does Jesus do? He teaches his students to become the place of prayer, to become the people where heaven and earth meet:
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” — Matt 6:9-10
To me this is brilliant. Jesus doesn’t teach his students to avoid the Temple. He doesn’t teach them to thumb their noses at the Temple. In fact, the early Christ-followers kept meeting in the Temple.
Rather, Jesus teaches them to become people who embody what the Temple stands for in all of its goodness. The Temple is the place of prayer so he teaches them to pray. The Temple is the place where heaven and earth meet, so he teaches them to pray “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Temple is the central symbol of the faith of God’s people, so Jesus teaches them to trust God for their daily bread. The Temple is the place where forgiveness is bestowed, so he teaches them to forgive as they are forgiven. The Temple is the place of God’s righteousness, so he teaches them to avoid temptation and to be delivered from evil.
In other words, if the system is broken, acknowledge it, but don’t throw stones at it. Rather become people who embody the goodness that the system stands for.
Paul carries this thought a bit further. In two specific places, he explains how we actually live in a way that embodies the Temple. First, he tells the bickering and divided Corinthian Christians that together, they are God’s Temple.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. — 1 Cor 3:16-17
By living in unity, God’s people embody the Temple and become the place where heaven and earth meet.
Second, Paul tells the same Corinthians that their personal bodies are God’s Temple.
Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body. — 1 Cor 6:19-20
By practicing holiness, particularly in regards to sexual purity (not simply obeying rules, but living the life of God), individual Christ-followers embody the Temple and become the place where heaven and earth meet.
Prayer, unity and holiness — in this way we embody and live “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”