George Bowers Sr.: We must be careful how we build

George Bowers Sr.

I recently sat in another church sanctuary for a meeting with fellow brethren. While discussing the various topics at hand, I also noticed the impressive architecture of the building. Behind the pulpit area were two brick walls on either side of a baptistery leading up to a vaulted ceiling. In back of it all was a stained glass window featuring a simple cross which was lighted naturally from the exterior. None of the features were abstract and the colors and textures combined to form an impressive worship center that was also beautifully decorated to remind us of God’s abundant provisions in autumn.

As I admired the various components of the design, my obsessive compulsive brain compared the edge of the brick wall to the vertical steel in the stained glass directly behind it. Although they both were identically parallel for most of their height, near the ceiling there was a slight departure and I could see daylight between them. One or both of these structures was not quite square. It wasn’t a huge discrepancy and most worshippers have probably never even noticed it, but from the angle where I sat, and even with my limited construction expertise, I knew something was off.

It occurred to me that it would be relatively simple to determine which of the two pieces was out of kilter by using a level, plumb bob, or laser. Any of these tools would soon reveal whether the brick masons deviated slightly or if the window installers shimmed a little too much, or both. Since it was only a very small difference and near the ceiling at that, its impact on the structural integrity of the sanctuary was minimal. However, if such errors were made in a multilevel high rise, or even in the foundation of a single story building, the results could be disastrous.

I likely would have forgotten this minor abnormality had it not been for our discussions that day centering around righteousness and sin and how to know the difference. Who gets to say what is good or evil and how do we know when something is either one? Indeed, we need an instrument to hold up to our morals, actions, and attitudes to test them for squareness.

The builder of the universe has given us just such a tool. It’s called the Holy Bible. Just because morals are abstract does not mean that there aren’t concrete values and standards that are right and wrong. The God who designed us and our world laid out his plans for a sturdy and enduring structure that would protect and provide for all the people who dwell within it. Part of our ongoing work is to build our level of this multi-floor high-rise soundly and according to his plans so that those who dwell with us, as well as those who build on top of our work later, might have a safe and solid structure. Minor errors in lower floors lead to major deviations further up and ultimately result in buildings that are faulty and unsafe. As we discover discrepancies or walls that are out of plumb, we owe it to the architect and to our fellow builders to correct such situations.

In that church chancel, it’s possible that both pieces were off, and in our discussions of morality, conservatives and liberals both sometimes err. In these days of fluid morality and open sexuality, it is vitally important that we hold God’s holy word up beside our beliefs and actions as well as our attitudes and reactions to check them for squareness.  We then need to make whatever changes are needed for the glory of the designer as well as for our own safety and well-being. In the words of one of our fellow builders on a much lower floor, it is crucial for each of us to “be careful how he builds (I Corinthians 3:10).”

Checking my walls, George.
George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books including his latest book of poetry, “Holy Verses.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or gabowers@shentel.net.