In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul compares building a life with building a temple; our lives are God’s house of course, construction is important, construction materials are important. How are we to know about the quality of the building materials that we are to use in constructing our lives? And, No; it isn’t too late, whatever age we are!
Let’s begin with foundations. Another of today’s lectionary readings is from Leviticus 19: let’s take three verses:
11 “Don’t steal. “Don’t lie. “Don’t deceive anyone.
19 “Keep my decrees. “Don’t mate two different kinds of animals. “Don’t plant your fields with two kinds of seed. “Don’t wear clothes woven of two kinds of material.
33-34 “When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.
Of these, which form good foundations? I expect that most of the saints we know and admire don’t take too much notice of v 19 but the other two are veritable rocks. We have to choose the principles we want to live by with care, and subject every suggestion to scrutiny. We are used to doing this with adverts on the TV, although maybe we are less discriminating when it comes to the lives and examples of Celebrities. Many books, films, autobiographies, and the advice of friends contain both good, and ignorable, ideas, just like Leviticus 19.
How we choose the materials we build with comes down to trial and error. If what we do upsets people unnecessarily, if we live by wants and not by love, then if we are alert to the consequences of our life choices “by their fruits we shall know them.” At our Jesus-shaped best, we reflect, we pray, we change.
At the moment, a team of good people is working together to specify the materials to be used in the construction of our new PassivHaus youth wing, The Fold. The materials that they select will affect future generations. The stewardship of the building we design will either be easy or difficult, economical or expensive, according to the success of this group. Their discussions, usually going on late into Sunday evenings, are crucial, although most of those who will watch The Fold rise from the ashes of the Marley Hut will never know about these discussions. They will only see the consequences.
In the same way, most of the work we each do to construct our lives, together and separately, is hidden. Most of our children don’t witness it. They have to learn it anew in each generation. But those children who attend our youth club get a head start. Along with the fun and games, they are learning prayerful reflection from an older generation, that will enable them to construct good, meaningful, useful, Jesus-shaped lives.
We must not despair of the church. it is helping a generation of young people learn the skills of building great lives.