There are two mandates that God’s word gives us about life. The first is that life is a gift of God and therefore has sanctity. The second is that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore to be cared for because it is special. We call these two things, the stewardship of life.
Little Jimmy was in the garden filling in a hole when his neighbor peered over the fence. Interested in what the cheeky-faced youngster was up to, he politely asked, “What are you up to there, Jimmy?” “My goldfish died,” replied Jimmy tearfully, without looking up, “and I’ve just buried him.” The neighbor was concerned, “That’s an awfully big hole for a goldfish, isn’t it?” Little Jimmy patted down the last heap of earth then replied, “That’s because he’s inside your cat.”
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:9)
God created life and therefore that which was created in God’s image was to be treated with respect. You shall not murder, was a command to protect human life and guide decency. No one was to stretch out their hand and harm another individual. Even the Koran, the Islamic holy book, bans murder.
When religious extremists claim they hear the voice of God, (whether Islamic, Christian or otherwise) they are actually hearing the thunder of their own desires to shape history. It comes out of self motivation and not divine direction. Those who murder innocent human beings are not in God’s will, but are criminal.
Should those who did this crime be brought to justice? Yes! The New Testament is clear that God allows the existence of government for the purpose of punishing evil doers. As a free and democratic people, we must use the same standards to bring those who are guilty of this crime to justice that we would use on ourselves. Before we punish anyone we must be certain beyond a reasonable doubt.
Nothing can justify the horrible crime that took place on Tuesday, 9-11-2001 and those involved must and should be punished. But every time we point the finger at someone else, three fingers come back at us. Why is there so much American hatred in the middle east that would prompt this type of aggression? Could it be that we used Afghanistan as a puppet to fight Russia during a cold war? Could it be that the US backed the Shah of Iran for thirty years for oil, even though he did horrible things to his people? It is not just a question of bringing to justice those who have done wrong, but making right and living justly with all people.
Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matt 5:23) Violence is less likely when we are at peace with our neighbor. Violence begets violence, it is never acceptable.
Reconciliation starts with us. I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil 4:2) Justice begins with ourselves.
Paul writes, “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) Then we begin to understand why God calls us to live at such a high standard. This earthen vessel belongs to God. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7)
It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44)
Debbie Blye worked in a book store and writes of her experience one day.
She noticed a man standing outside the door of the book store before it was time to open. The clothes indicated that he was Hasidic Jew. She let him in early. He said, “I want to know about Jesus?” She said, “We have some wonderful books over here.” “No,” he said, “I want you to tell me about Jesus.” She writes, “My Episcopal soul shivered because I was not equipped to tell him about Jesus.”
We forget that we live in a body that does not belong to us, but to God.
It is the residence of the Holy Spirit. We take care of this body because it reflects how well we take care of God’s Temple.
Perhaps death itself will be a big revelation for all of us. That moment in time when it “dawns” on us. “They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ (Matt 25:44)