This is sort of a response to something my friend wrote, about being a good guest in someone else’s house. I read his post earlier this morning, and it was about how we observe social norms and are very polite in other people’s homes, out of respect for those people. How much more should we be respectful of our world then, since it is not ours, but God’s?
Good stewardship of our world, whether it’s the physical world (environmental awareness) or our interpersonal world of relationships and communities, is something that God calls us to, and reminds us of often. And the world that’s nearest and dearest to us is probably that of our own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self. It’s not just our environment and other people that are God’s creation, but we ourselves are also “the temple of God.” We individually are “someone else’s home” because the Spirit of the Lord lives in our hearts. My friend mentioned junk food and laziness or apathy to opportunities as similar to “trashing God’s house,” or I guess simply disregarding it and letting it fall to shambles.
Reading that blog post, I didn’t get much further in my thoughts than something like–ah yes, the world is beautiful and we should take care of it and, ah yes, our bodies and lives were created to be pure and healthy so we should take care of that too, but God nudged me along a little bit just ten minutes later. He reminded me to put aside readings and problem sets for a little while and just rest in Him, which I knew I needed to do desperately since I was so physically tired. I read a sort of daily devotional passage, which was fittingly entitled “A Home for God’s Spirit.” It talked about how as born again Christians, we are the dwelling place for the Lord’s Spirit. Something that struck me as new and kind of funny was the question, “Is God comfortable in you? Does He feel at home within you?” It goes on to describe all sorts of uncomfortable things that might be residing in our hearts like bitterness, complaining, anger, jealousy, anxiety, etc., and compares them to watching your friend scream at her parents while you’re visiting her house… something that’s actually happened to me, and so I know that’s definitely not pleasant.
We talk about rebirth, renewal, and purifying our hearts a lot, but I never really considered that God could actually be discomforted by the clutter in my heart, like judgmental thoughts and jealousy. Maybe this is my Asian upbringing coming to the surface, but somehow when I think about a guest being uncomfortable in my house, I’m completely mortified. It simply should not and cannot and will not be. I will clean up the house and make them hot tea and offer them Claritin if the cat makes them sneeze. They will wear warm fuzzy slippers and eat cantaloupe and smile and be entertained from the moment they walk in the door. Now I know I’m probably not the perfect host all the time, but that image is certainly a goal. I feel that this idea is even more convicting than the reminder to be a polite visitor in someone else’s house, because it’s so much more personal; this house is mine, and what you see and how you feel while you are here is my responsibility.
Then when you turn to think about the visitor, it takes things to a whole new level. It’s not just your friend from math class, it’s God. The Maker of heaven and earth and you and me, not even just visiting but living in my house. I think that if I were to remember that more often, or if in fact it could be the constant state of my heart, I would think twice the next time I was tempted to judge someone or to wallow in resentment against them.
Our outer lives are important; how we use our time, how we listen to and follow God’s calling in our work and activities, all this is important. But our inner lives are just as or maybe even more important. I pray that God will teach me to fill my heart and mind with beautiful things like praise and thanksgiving, which he gives us plenty of reason for every single day.
I came back to my room about an hour ago and planned to write a really quick testimony for my Bible study, then take a quick nap before having to go to rehearsal, but I guess God wanted me to reflect a bit more, because I opened my notes from our Nehemiah 1-2 study and my eyes focused right away on this: “Now, we are the temple of God’s dwelling, and the wall of Jerusalem is akin to where we place our strength and identity, which should be in Christ… without this wall we are easily corrupted by the things of the world, even though the Spirit is living in the temple.” God had already reminded me that I am his “home,” and that I should keep that home clean, but that’s not all. He also used this passage to remind me that even the temple of Jerusalem needed a wall around the city to protect it. I need to continually build up this wall, not on my own strength, but by trusting in Christ, through prayer for myself and for those around me. He has the power to build us up and make us strong enough to resist spiritual opposition, because ultimate authority and sovereignty belongs to God.
It’s kind of an interesting almost-paradoxical way of looking at things, where I am my house at the same time that I am God’s temple. I must try to keep my house clean and presentable, but I can’t do everything by myself so I will ask and trust God to help me out with the housework. Or, since it is God’s temple, I must be a polite and conscientious guest while I am here (in this physical body and life, on Earth), and be a good steward of all that God has blessed me with. Yet at the same time it is His, so as master of the house he will be responsible for keeping it clean and warm.
Another way you could look at it is this: when two people get married, they basically agree that “What’s mine is yours.” Since marriage is a reflection of our relationship with God, then the same statement should apply. I pray that we will live in such a way as to honor the privilege we have of saying to God, “My house is your house,” applying this to our minds, hearts, bodies, and worlds.