Being a Sanctuary

Being a Sanctuary

Written by: Pete McClanathan

Our journey through Psalm 73 has brought us to a turnaround point for Asaph. He describes it as a time when he “went into the sanctuary of God” (Ps. 73:17). New observations began to take root in his mind and in his heart. The remainder of the psalm describes a flood of new understandings that led to resolution of his lament.  

We’ll visit the remainder of the psalm in a later article, but there is something we don’t want to overlook in the transition of verse 17. Exactly what is the “sanctuary of God,” and how did it make a profound impression on Asaph?  

Recall our discussion in the previous article. As a music director and a prophet, Asaph was quite familiar with temple worship even during the period of his lament. Yet for some time he had not found resolution.  

It seems safe to conclude that the act of going into the temple was not itself the source of his new perspective. We’ve speculated that there must have been something in that particular time that spoke to Asaph. Words of personal encouragement, a slightly new approach to the Book of the Law, a message in the songs, are all possibilities. The important information for us is that something did occur. And we would do well to explore what it tells us about our own conduct in the body of Christ, for it does make a difference.  

Consider that several groups participated in the temple worship. Most obvious were the regular circumcised Hebrew worshippers (whom we might in today’s church refer to as “the committed”). The others were biological Hebrew and Gentile participants, people who had not been circumcised into the Hebrew faith but were interested. They were called “God-fearers” in their time. We would refer to them today as “seekers.” And of course the persons in each group brought with them whatever spiritual or personal concerns that might be touching their lives, just as all of us do.  

This is not going to be a discussion of church strategies. There is an abundance of good material available for church leaders to explore questions of church growth and church health. Instead we are going to dive into the broad topic of how those in the body of Christ are told to behave toward others, inside and outside of the church. What should be the biblical values, goals, and tools that guide this conversation?  

This discussion over time will take us to many places in the Word of God. Some of them will make us uneasy. That’s not a bad thing. Accepting the challenges of scripture is a core part of biblical change and Christian growth.  

Let’s begin in 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

There is a lot in this verse on topics of redemption, transformation, identity, and security.  We’ll deal here with one particular phrase, “that you may proclaim,” four words that tie the parts of the verse together in a clear statement of purpose.

How are we to serve that purpose? How ought we to present and conduct ourselves so as to be welcoming and healing sanctuaries?

The New Testament of course is well-stocked with instructions on these matters. We’ll be discussing many of them as we go forward. Let’s first take another look at 1 Peter 2, this time in vs.12:

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

We learn from these scriptures an obvious but often-ignored fact: People are watching us, both outside of the church and within. Those who claim the name of Christ as their Savior and Lord inherit an important, yet difficult, assignment.  

Though we are told that we are set apart and chosen, aliens in the world and citizens of a heavenly kingdom, the fact remains that for this time we live in the world. And we will be affected by the people, values, and events of that world. The call to conform to the world’s system of values is relentless, and it can be overwhelming at times. There arise so many opportunities to flirt with the world, to compromise, to convince ourselves that a taste of unrighteousness will not offend God or matter in His kingdom.

And if that were not enough, we also carry the responsibility of being salt and light to the world. People outside of Christ (the New Testament parallel to “the Gentiles” of Peter’s letter) typically do not understand what we are, or why. Their own beliefs and experiences are the only framework for their understanding. We cannot expect them to “get it,” or to conform right away to the standards of belief and conduct that we embrace.  

The world’s only way to measure what Christ means to us and has done within us is what they observe us to be. People are crying out for encouragement, love, wisdom, and truth. I expect that many actually want or hope to find it in the same place we found it, that is among the body of Christ. That is the “sanctuary” that corresponds to Asaph’s experience. It does make a difference, often a significant one. We are not perfect of course, but the task obviously becomes more difficult if we display anything that might be seen as self-righteousness, pride, or a judgmental spirit, or hypocrisy in speech or behavior.  

Chapter 2 of Peter’s first letter again provides pointed instruction:

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy, and envy and all slander.” (1 Peter 2:1)

This call is serious, and one we can find easy to disregard in day to day moments of living. How do we deal with difficult people or conflicted relationships in or outside of the church? When the actions of church leadership are not as we would wish, what should be our response, if any? What about our conduct in difficult matters? Are we forthright and honest in our business and financial dealings, in our tax filings, in our parenting, in our social interactions? Do we welcome people into our fellowship as they are, or do we filter our acceptance through our opinions of appearance, conduct, background? Is the glory of God and service to others prominent among our goals in all situations? Does a bitter, complaining spirit accompany us into our transactions and relationships? Are our responses too often affected by our own needs to be right or to be recognized? Patience, looking toward the interests of others, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, confession of our own faults . . . they all are contained in the New Testament descriptions of love and ministry. How are we doing?

I think we’ll stop here and let the words of the scriptures speak to us. We’ll take a look at some practical everyday challenges soon in a later article.  

Meanwhile, would you do us a favor? It would be helpful to know how much readership is out there for the Park Hills blog. We’d be so grateful if you would post your comments regularly (you may have more to say than you think). As with any blog, it’s most effective when it grows into a discussion group, and I know that many of you have knowledge, wisdom, and experience that would be welcome and helpful.

If you don’t wish to do so, you may consider contacting the church office (email, phone, stop by) to tell us your thoughts about what the blog is (or isn’t) doing in your life. Or mention it to any of us on a Sunday morning, at a small group meeting, or any time. Many thanks.  

1 Comment


Mark Balmer - August 4th, 2021 at 3:06pm

Wonderfully insightful words... Nice work!

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