A Temple Steward's Identity
I have a split identity. Though my heritage is Korean, I’m as American as they come—proudly pledging allegiance to the flag, eating Tofurky (vegetarian substitute) and mashed potatoes for
Thanksgiving, and learning solely English from the moment I could speak. Having recently moved to Korea to teach
middle school English, however, I have begun to call my identity into question. Adapting to Korean
culture has been complicated. Despite sharing the physical characteristics of
the local Koreans, I differ from the general population owing to my inability
to speak Korean.
I have a split identity. Though my heritage is Korean, I’m as American as they come—proudly pledging allegiance to the flag, eating Tofurky (vegetarian substitute) and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, and learning solely English from the moment I could speak.
At first, I felt
defensive of my American identity that was constantly proverbially at war with
my almond-shaped eyes, dark hair, and olive skin. My pride kept encouraging me to close my mind and remain the
same. Realizing that this was
ineffective, I eventually swallowed my self-importance, thinking that sheer
mimicry could help me assimilate myself into the culture instead; however, no
matter how much I tried to look like a local in dress and mannerisms, I was
still an “outsider.” It became apparent the moment anyone tried to speak to me. “I don’t speak Korean. I’m from America,” became my mantra.
All of this changed
when I began teaching. Suddenly,
my ability to speak English was useful, and I no longer had to impersonate to
feel accepted. Watching the students
respond to my lessons and hearing their English improve became such an
encouragement. In fact, the moment
I fully grew into my new role, I found my identity crisis
to be a non-issue. My service gave
me purpose instead and I became committed to using my
language abilities to facilitate my students’ learning.
In much the same
way, becoming stewards of the “temple of God” involves a similar
identity transformation. Physically, we share the appearance of God, being made in His
image (Gen. 1:27). This body,
according to 1 Corinthians 6:19, is His temple—not a castle surrounded by a
moat, protected by a fire-breathing dragon. Too often, however, we become more like fortresses of pride
than sanctuaries where the Holy Spirit can abide. When this proves ineffective, we start believing that being
stewards of the temple—the house of the Lord—can be accomplished through
correctness: eating healthfully, abstaining from bad habits, having daily
devotions, being temperate in all things.
While these are all good and integral parts of the Christian lifestyle,
one cannot simply go through the motions to claim the identity of being the
“steward of the temple.” One must realize that true stewardship is first an inward
commitment to, and, focus on, Jesus that results in outward service.
“I don’t speak Korean. I’m from America,” became my mantra.
In The Desire of Ages, Ellen G. White
states, “I don’t speak Korean. I’m from America,” became my mantra.
(p. 488). God chose us, fought for
us and deliberately decided to set up camp in our feeble, imperfect
bodies. As believers in this
truth, who are we to reject Him with our pride or replace him with routine,
seemingly correct actions?
Instead, we should find identity in our work for the Lord—honoring His
sacrifice by sharing our God-given talents with others. This new self-perception allows the Holy
Spirit to find a hospitable place to reside, a place where he can truly
transform us from within. Through
this physical, emotional and spiritual service to Christ, we honor Him with our
bodies, making us true stewards of the temple of God.
...How does it
change my thoughts and behavior when I remember the Holy Spirit lives in
me — God's temple'?