“O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.”
— Psalm 26:8, NRSV
On a Sunday, few things could be more fitting than to discuss the House of the Lord! For many of us, that means our church, our local place of worship. For the author(s) of the Psalms (and much of the rest of Scripture), that term referred to the temple in Jerusalem. Judging by the state of the so-called “Holy Land,” there are many who still see God as especially present in that particular area, though the idolatrous violence would indicate otherwise. I, on the other hand, believe this Psalm, in conjunction with a little New Testament, can point us all in a better direction, closer to the One who loved us first.
What does it mean to love the house in which God dwells? Perhaps our good friend Paul can shed some light on this. If we look at 1 Corinthians 3:16, we are taught that we “are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in” us. This makes sense, considering the fact that “the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands,” indicated in Acts 7, with Stephen quoting Isaiah 66:1. Further, this understanding of us being the temple of God puts us in position to fulfill a very important commandment… the greatest one, actually.
Matthew 22:34-40 teaches us that the greatest commandment is that we “love the Lord [our] God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” How do we do this?
Wait for it…
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” BOOM.
You see, one a fundamental level, the Spirit of God dwells in all who live. After all, Genesis 2:7 reveals God forming humanity “from the dust of the ground, and breath[ing] into his nostrils the breath of life,” making the first human into a living being. The Spirit is God’s breath, God’s wind, present at the moment of creation. In this sense, all that have the breath of life, especially humans (made in the image of God), are imbued with the Spirit of the living God, and thereby serve as a dwelling place for God. Now, believers are given a fresh awakening, a powerful outpouring of that same Spirit that transforms their lives, but fundamentally, all things are God’s, regardless of how they use that gift.
The point? How we love ourselves and each other is how we love God. Don’t believe me (or don’t want to)? Check out Matthew 25, wherein Jesus teaches us that whatever we do (or don’t do) for others, “you did it to me.” In order to truly love God, we must truly love ourselves and others. Why? Because God is not found in the rocks of the Holy(ish) Land, nor is God especially present in the cathedrals, garages, or worship centers we attend. God is found within His creation, within His people. As such, we must love ourselves and each other if we ever want to truthfully claim to love God.
Now, I know. Loving ourselves and each other is a hefty task. It means facing some things about ourselves we don’t want to. Perhaps it is getting the counseling or help we need so that our destructive cycles can stop (as in my case). Perhaps it is recognizing that we don’t have all the answers, and those of different opinions are just as valuable as we are in the grand scheme of things. Maybe it means starting to reduce, reuse, and recycle, ordering less food, and caring more for the world we have been trusted with. There are many ways to start truly loving, we just have to have the grace and the courage to get started.
It is my prayer that today you remember that God loves and dwells within you and others (yes, even those you don’t want to like). God earnestly desires us to understand this, evident in the teachings of Christ revealed in the Scriptures. If we can learn to take those baby steps toward loving ourselves as we are, and loving others where they are, we can look forward to the heavenly blessings God intends to shower upon this world. I believe in you! Pray for me!
Peace be with you!