“No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is sacred
– and you, remember, are the temple ”.
1 Cor 3:17 EHP
Christianity has had a chequered journey down through history. It has split and fragmented again and again. It has been rocked by scandals, almost destroyed by false teachings, and the lamp of faith has frequently burnt low. It has got involved in secular politics, caused wars, and has both suffered and inflicted persecution. It has seldom been free from controversy. Still it has proclaimed the gospel of Christ, maintained Christian worship and brought light into the surrounding darkness. It has produced saints, sought for justice, and motivated many to improve the lives of poor and marginalized people.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church it was only twenty two years after the death of Jesus. But already there was trouble. And the root of the trouble was the development of factions. One faction supported Peter. Another one followed Apollos and a third stuck with Paul himself. And they contended bitterly against each other. And that strife was destroying the fellowship within the church and impeding its work in the wider community. It was killing love and frustrating the work of the Holy Spirit. That means it was spoiling the outreach and mission of the church as well.
Many churches and fellowships still experience fights. Some- times they become open free-for-alls. Sometimes they are carefully concealed. But they always damage the work of God and the people involved. “Vandalizing God’s temple” is Paul’s way of describing the devastating effect on a congregation of conflict and factionalism in a church. And the temple is sacred – because it doesn’t belong to anyone other than God.
Lord, let your church be free from destructive conflict.