There’s an old rabbinical story that tells about two brothers living “time before time, when the world was young.” They each shared a field and a mill. Each night they divided evenly the grain they had ground together during the day.
Now as it happened, one of the brothers lived alone; the other had a wife and a large family. One day, the single brother thought to himself: “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly. I have only myself to care for, but my brother has children to feed.”
So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary to see that he was never without.
But the married brother said to himself one day, “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one. What will he do when he is old?”
So every night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary.
As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning.
Then one night the brothers met each other halfway between their two houses, suddenly realized what had been happening, and embraced each other in love.
The story is that God witnessed their meeting and proclaimed, “This is a holy place—a place of love—and here it is that my temple shall be built.”
“And so it was. The holy place, where God is made known, is the place where human beings discover each other in love.” *
Here are four ways from this story that our relationships can be turned into holy temples where God chooses to dwell.
First, God’s holy place on earth is the intersection between people where love is the center.
Our relationships of love are where God’s temple is. Those relationships are sacred ground. When people respond to each other from a spirit of love and compassion, a temple of God is raised up. God is revealed best and most completely within relationships of love.
Second, relationships become centered on love when each person looks at the other in a spirit of compassion and chooses to give what the other needs the most.
The spirit of compassion is antithetical to a competitive, win-lose worldview. Sacred relationships are based upon a win-win paradigm. We give what the other needs, not what we need to give. We love in the language of the other so that our act of love is truly experienced as love by the other.
Third, a relationship of love doesn’t necessarily mean both people agree with each other on everything.
Our ability to love each other pragmatically in the midst of our differences creates God’s temple. Contrary to popular opinion, love God’s way doesn’t mean having to unilaterally agree. God’s way of loving is giving to others no matter what, even when we disagree.
Fourth, people are empowered to love compassionately and generously when they see the other as their brother or sister.
Family members certainly don’t all agree with each other—whether politically, theologically, philosophically, sociologically. Families inherently contain great diversity. But because they’re all family, blood runs thicker than water. Until we start seeing all others as members of our great global family—children of God, every one—we will continue struggling to give love and compassion graciously and generously to those we disagree with and are different than.
Fifth, when people are in a relationship of love, they’re content to give to the other anonymously, without credit or recognition.
The joy is in the giving because, as A Course In Miracles emphasizes, when a person gives, they always receive. The New Testament references this reality when it says we reap what we sow. In this universe, you can never give away something you don’t also receive. So you don’t need credit or recognition in order to receive something; you’ve already received what you’ve given away. When you give, you are never in a place of deficit.
When you and I deliberately and intentionally design our relationships to be centered on love, compassion, generosity, and grace—because we recognize and acknowledge our brotherhood and sisterhood with all others—we enter into the holy temple of God, we are on sacred ground.
“And so it was. The holy place, where God is made known, is the place where human beings discover each other in love.”
So how many sacred temples do you have in your life these days?
* Belden C. Lane, “Rabbinical Stories: A Primer on Theological Method,” Christian Century 98:41 (December 16, 1981), pp. 1307-8.