Dear Friend,

What does it look like to live as a pillar in the temple of God that Jesus builds?

In the Willowdale passage for September 2 (Revelation 3:7-13) Jesus tells the church in Philadelphia, “If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God.” (Rev. 3:12) Earlier in this letter Jesus writes, “I know that you have little strength [dunamis]” (Rev. 3:8); but, revealingly, Jesus does not hold that against them. Instead, as with the afflicted and poor church in Smyrna, so with the weak church in Philadelphia, Jesus has only encouragement. So perhaps living as a pillar in the temple Jesus builds includes revising our notions of power and strength.

We can think here of David, to whom Jesus refers indirectly, when he describes himself as the holy and true one “who has the key of David.” (Rev. 3:7) Was David a conqueror when, as “just a boy,” (1st Samuel 17:33) he slew the giant Goliath? How about when he killed “his ten thousands”? (1st Sam. 18:7) We can think also of David dancing and leaping as he transported the ark of the LORD into Jerusalem, (2nd Sam. 6) and I feel inclined to treasure David most as “the sweet Psalmist of Israel” (2nd Sam. 23, KJV) Still, perhaps another scene in David’s life reveals him not so much as a conqueror as more than a conqueror. (Romans 8:37)

Does David ever sound more like a man after God’s own heart than when he laments the death of his son? Weeping, David says, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son.” (2nd Sam. 18:33) Rebellious Absalom had driven David, mourning and barefoot, out of Jerusalem. Arrogant Absalom sought to usurp David’s throne and probably would have killed his father, if he could have slaughtered enough of David’s soldiers. But when Absalom lost his civil war and his own life, David speaks from a broken heart in a way that echoes faintly the passionate heart of God: David would have died instead of his son; God’s Son did in truth die instead of us.

Perhaps living as pillars in the temple Jesus builds includes recognizing we have little strength in ourselves and learning to trust the One “who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for us all.” (Romans 8:32) Trusting such a God makes us active and love; and with such pillars, Jesus builds his living temple.