Kiyomizu-dera Temple – Kyoto, Japan
Yasmin and I were in yet another amazing temple in Kyoto Japan, particularly the Kiyomizu-dera Temple complex, which was founded in 778 AD! (It’s present buildings were constructed 1633 without a single nail.) As I walked inside its great hall, I thought to myself, “Wow. This place is so amazing. We’ve seen so many amazing temples. It would have been awesome if Christians had built amazing monuments as well, then people would be flocking to see God’s greatness and be awed the way we are with this temple.” Then I realized, Christians have built amazing monuments, many of them, if not most, in Europe, such as the cathedrals and religious art, and people do flock to see them, but not necessarily to see God’s greatness, but to admire the architecture or the art, giving more glory to the architect and the artist than the Creator. So that shot down my “we should build great monuments” idea. Then I remembered a verse I have read many many times, “Your body is the temple”. And it kept ringing in my head: “Your body is the temple. Your body is the temple. Your body is the temple.” As I looked at the different features of the the Kiyomizu-dera temple, I would think, “Wow, that’s nice” followed with “Your body is the temple.” I would see an inner room where with a statue in the center and think, “Does God truly reside in my temple, my body, or do I have a shadow?” I saw kids enjoying the act of drawing water from three waterfall channels and would think, “Is my temple a source of great joy to others?” I saw the priests offering incense to their god in highly ritualistic fashion, and I saw religious ceremony in a new light. We like to bash religion, but religious ceremonies are activities that were devised to help man love their deity right. Wanting to love God right is not a bad thing. Loving the wrong god is obviously not right, and it is possible to love God wrongly, mainly by loving Him the way I want to love Him or the way I feel like loving Him NOT according to He has commanded me to love Him. This led me to the most sobering of the questions in my head, “Do I love God rightly? Do I want to love Him rightly? Am I seeking to learn how to love Him in the way He commands to be loved? Or am I loving Him the way I feel like loving Him?”
Throughout the rest of our trip, these thoughts haunted me. I remembered the words in Matthew 7:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
I thought to myself, “The person who claims to love the true God but loves wrongly is no better than the person who loves a false god.”
Loving wrongly means having the feeling of desire or attachment, or having an understanding of the greatness of God, yet not living according to His commands, not loving Him the way He commands us to. To love God, to truly love God, is to want to please Him, and that is called obedience. Is is very proud of me to say, “I’ll love God in my own way” as if I knew better than Him how to love Him, as if my style of loving is superior that I no longer need to learn how to love as He commands.
This led me to a simple prayer, “Father, teach me to love You right.” I understand now King David’s Psalms, when he asked God to teach Him His ways. He was asking God to teach Him what I’m asking God now, “Teach me to love You right. Teach me the things that please You. Teach me what makes You happy. Teach me how I can bless You. Teach me how I can bring You glory.” King David understood that one cannot separate righteous living and holiness from loving God, for righteous living and holiness is the way to love God. But King David also understood that man is not capable and does not completely comprehend how to live righteously, so he constantly called to God to teach Him how to get things right, because he truly desired get it right for God.
To a lesser degree, I feel this with my wife, Yasmin. I deeply want to become the best possible husband, but I know myself too well. I particularly know how impatient, proud, and selfish I can be, causing me to be irritable and argumentative. Every time she calls me out or after an argument, I feel frustrated that I’m not able to improve myself fast enough, that because of my flaws the person I love gets hurt. Then I realized that was a good sign that I really love her, because there is a pain in me when I hurt her, there is a desire to correct it, and there is a desire to learn how to do things better, to learn how to love her better.
King David felt that way with God. Every time he made a mistake, he was in anguish, and he was running to God praying, “Forgive me! Teach me!” Our self-centered spirituality has caused us to forget this. We want to love God in the way we’re comfortable with. We no longer seek to love Him rightly, the way He commands. Can we say we truly love someone if we do not desire to love them the way they are supposed to be loved? No. How we love says a lot about who we love. If I love God the way I want to, putting my style or my convenience above His will, than can I say I truly make Him priority? No. It shows I love myself more, for my ways are held over His.
You can see why I would wake up really early every morning bothered by this. I realize that in many ways I was loving God wrongly, and what bothered me even more was the fact that I was proud that I thought it was right, that how I loved God, was my prerogative, instead of desiring to learn to love from the One who is love.
In my study, I was led to dig deeper into the idea of “Your Body is the Temple”, and that is the topic of my next post for another time. Jesus’ idea of a monument to the world was not great buildings but great lives. Traditionally, temples were places were gods resided, where man communicated with gods (prayer), and where man worshiped gods. Unlike other religions, in Christianity, God would would not reside in gilded rooms but in humble hearts; communication with God, prayer, would not be limited to a chosen few but be open to a priesthood of believers; and God would be worshipped (loved the way He wants to be loved) in spirit and in truth, in other words, in obedience. In my next post I will share the difference between prayer and worship (and they are different), and why one cannot truly love if one is not disciplined.
This next post will be followed by another post about another “body” the Bible talks about, Christ’s body: The Church, and how we’re not commanded to just go to church but be the church. This one will take a little bit more time as I am not a theologian or a church expert, so will have to consult with people who are experts.
I realized that there’s so much I don’t know. My early mornings and evenings are not complete without studying further. I do know this: I know I love God, not because I’m doing everything right (which I’m definitely not), but because it pains me to disobey, and because I desire to love Him, not just the way I feel, but in the way He commands.