Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Church

Where does God live?

The answer for too many of us is that He lives in the same place He's always lived - the church. 

It used to be the Tabernacle, then it was the Temple; now, it is the church. God has always seemed to "live" in some building that is central to the community of the people of God. And when the people are looking for God, they simply go to the building that He lives in. We visit Him on Sunday mornings and sometimes, Sunday nights or maybe Tuesday nights or Wednesday nights or whatever day He's hosting some kind of special event, and then we go back to our own homes until it's time to visit Him again. 

We tell ourselves this is historical Christianity, this is the way that the people of God have always related to Him - He lives at His house, and we live at ours. But is that really the truth? 

No. It's more complicated than that. 

We could get into it at some point, but what's most important right now is to recognize that the fundamental nature of the church is different than the fundamental nature of either the Temple or the Tabernacle, which means that even if they were the same thing in terms of God living among His people, they would not be the same thing in practical faith terms. 

Sorry, that's complicated. Let me break it down with a little simpler language: when the people went to the Tabernacle or the Temple to worship God, their primary emphasis was on God Himself. It was on sacrifice and atonement and prayer and incense and connecting with the God who lived there. Often, of course, they happened to be doing it together, so there was a sense of community in that place, but the essence of Temple (and Tabernacle) worship was the presence of the Lord. 

Not so with the church. Oh, we say that it is, that we go to church to meet with God and to worship Him, but the New Testament - and our own practical interaction with the church - betrays us. 

See, the church was never the place where God lived. Never. It was never the place where Jesus lived. After the resurrection, not a single disciple said they should go to church so they could find Jesus there. It's simply not His house. The church has been a house of a people. It's a place where the people of God come together to encourage one another and to build each other up. The New Testament is exceedingly clear on that. The church, as an establishment, is for us. 

And we know that. We know that because when we walk in on Sunday mornings, we can't wait to see our friends. Our brothers and sisters. To talk with one another. To share our lives. To talk about Jesus, yes, and to worship and to sing and to preach and to pray, but we know that the church experience is primarily about our togetherness. It is, quite literally, a fellowship. 

Which means that even as much as we say that we're going to church to worship the Lord and to meet with Him, even we know that that's not really the case. We're going to church to be with the persons who build us up and encourage us, to be with those who pray for us and with those for whom we pray. To lift our voices together because that's what the church is - it's togetherness. 

So where does God live? 

Not the church.  

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