When You Cut the Branch You’re Standing On
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
When I worked in the ER, it wasn’t uncommon to take care of those patients who suffered some significant injury from cutting down a branch that fell on them or knocked down the ladder on which they were standing. It always seemed like an avoidable thing . . . until I did it myself. One summer, a storm partially broke off a large branch that was left hanging from the trunk, 15 feet off the ground. I set my ladder up, ascended with my saw, and climbed into the tree so I wasn’t standing on the ladder. When I cut the branch, it did indeed take out my ladder. I was glad I’d climbed off the ladder, only then, I was stuck – 15 feet up in the tree.
This is what the one who can’t get along with others often does to himself. Whether it’s in a recovery meeting or in church, he follows his own self-destructive nature, damaging relationships with those around him. He burns bridges, causes division, and stirs up strife. He needs the church. He needs his recovery meeting. But he can’t keep himself from wrecking those relationships, cutting off the very branch on which he should be standing.
This seems to be Paul’s message in today’s passage. In the passage, he chastised those in the Corinthian church for being immature, filled with jealousy and conflict. He said they – the people of the church – were God’s temple. If they destroyed the church, God would destroy them.
Does this mean that God will kill that person physically? Does it mean he will damn them to hell? It’s possible that Paul meant those things, but he was writing to Christians, albeit immature ones. It is likely, I think, that Paul was saying that those who introduced destruction and injury to the church were condemning themselves to some injury and destruction. They needed the church, but in their selfish, divisive nature, they couldn’t help cutting the branch on which they were standing.
Do we do this? In our anger, frustration, or need to be right, do we injure relationships with those around us. If so, then, when we experience some trial, we’ll often find that we’ve alienated ourselves from those whom we actually need. The church – the people, not the building – is God’s home. We must treat the church – and those people – accordingly.