4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5
I have already written about Aphrodisius and the lessons learned from their stadium, but another valuable lesson came from this place. But first a little background on the city: Aphrodisius was a city named after Aphrodite, the goddess of love and fertility. The city didn’t start booming until around the second century B.C. Aphrodisius was the favorite city of Julius Ceasar and he declared it as his own. The city was known for its incredible art work, so much so that the most famous art school in all of Asia was located here.
In the canonical image of Aphrodite, she has handmaidens dancing around her, between the god of the sky and the god of the earth. This is displaying the message that “love is everywhere.” There are capricornus, which represents that Aphrodite also has dominion over the sea. This makes the point that art isn’t just an expression; it means something.
In the city of Aphrodisius, a temple was made to Julius Ceasar, in a style that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the ancient greco-Roman world. They made a Sebasteion, a temple for the emperor, but its structure was known as the Via Sacra, or sacred way.
This structure was 80 meters long and contained over 200 panels of ornate friezes, each containing life size depictions of roman mythology or Roman victory. Currently, the structure doesn’t have all the friezes, but many of them have been preserved in a museum where you can see them close up. I wish I had taken more shots of the individual friezes, but they were just incredible. All of them hand made, and you wouldn’t believe that stone could be made so life-like. This structure took 40 years to build! Here you see again: art means something. In this case, this temple showed the value the city placed on the emperor but also displayed the message of complete Roman victory.
And what made this structure so magnificent was that it contained 200 panels of friezes. One frieze in and of itself was amazing, but to see the panels next to each other, that was breath-taking.
In the Forge, one of the main things we processed was answering the question: “who are you and what are you doing here?” In other words, as Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The Forge focuses on helping you learn and understand what the good works are that God prepared you specifically to do. The word for handiwork, is the Greek word “poema”, which means artwork, handiwork or poem.
It is so important to learn about yourself and how God designed you, but when you come to a place like this and see this structure where all this artwork is put together, you realize that the question isn’t so much “who are you and what are you doing here?”, but rather “who are we and what are we doing here?”
1 Peter 2 says that we are being built into a spiritual house. We are a royal priesthood. The last time I checked, a house took more than one stone and a priesthood was composed of more than one priest. And we have the best cornerstone and most faithful High Priest, Jesus Christ Himself. And what is the purpose of this house and priesthood?
“that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2: 9b
Handmade artwork always has a message. God made you with his hands. What is your message?
Is your message and declaration the praises of your God and King? Or is it another message entirely? And on the next level, does your message fit with the message of rest of the Church? Are we unified in such a way that the world sees us being built together and it takes their breath away? Each of us is God’s poema, but together, we are God’s Via Sacra. Together, we bring God the most glory, so much more so than when we just live our individual Christian lives.
Questions to consider:
- What is your design? Have you been living it out?
- How does living out your design or not living it out affect the Church?
- What is a barrier to you in pursuing unity with other Believers?
- Have you ever experienced Christian unity in a situation? How did it bring God glory?