There is a place where people are fighting for the chance to worship. A location so holy that millions of people form foreign policy decisions about which religion prays there. A GPS pin that scores believe has a direct pipeline to heaven.
Where is this locale? In Jerusalem, at the spot known of as the Temple Mount. This location is the historic site where the Jewish Temple stood for 1,000 years. Solomon built it . . . Zerubbabel rebuilt it . . . and Herod added onto it. For a millennia, this Temple housed the Holy of Holies and was the center of worship for the Jewish people. In 70 AD, however, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, and the Jews did not have access to the site to rebuild for nearly 2,000 years (and counting.) In in the intermediary time, the Muslims claimed this location as the holy place where they believe Mohammad was transported to heaven to learn about prayer. In the late seventh century, they built the Dome of the Rock holy site on this location and the Al Aqsa mosque, claiming it as their own. Blood and tears have been shed over the years as Jews and Muslims have fought over this spot. Under the current status quo, Jews are not allowed to worship on the Temple Mount, so many spend time praying as close to that location as they can . . . at the Western Retaining Wall of the Temple – the closest they can get to the spot where the Holy of Holies once stood.
As you hear these details, you may want to ask yourself a question: “Why are Christians not fighting for the chance to worship on top of the Temple Mount? While misguided Christians did fight to obtain the Holy Land during the time of the Crusades, for the most part Christians have not fight over the Temple Mount. Without giving it much thought, we might EXPECT Christians to join this fight. After all, Jesus was a Jew, worshipped at the Temple, and a Jerusalem Temple is prophesied about in the Christian book of Revelation. Given these cues, why are Christians not fighting to worship there today?
The reason for this is found in John 4:20-26 as Jesus interacted with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. In Jesus’s conversation with the woman, she asks Him a question: “Where are people supposed to worship – on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (as the Jews say) or on Mount Gerizim (as the Samaritan’s say.)” Jesus answers her and says, “It is not about WHERE you worship, but WHO you worship. I am establishing a new way for people ANYWHERE to worship God in a truly spiritual way.”
Christians believe that in Christ, we are always close to God. We no longer have to make pilgrimages to certain physical locations in order to worship. If we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our rescuer from sin and judgement, we can worship God wherever we are. This means that we do not need to go to Israel to worship – we can worship God in our home country. In fact, Jesus was going to give the disciples a worldwide mandate in Matthew 28:18-20 . . . something that makes sense only when geography is not the most significant issue.
Additionally, truly spiritual worship means that we can connect with God in our living room at home . . . we do not need to visit the western wall or a church building to get a “good connection” with God. We can commune with Him wherever we are. This is something Jesus has provided for us. What a privilege!
Seeing the site of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall helped me understand more of the blessings we have in Christ. He has made it possible for us to worship Him wherever we are. This does not mean that places are not still important. We can still have our hearts moved by stained glass or be inspired by the historical significance of the Western Wall, but these locations are no longer NECESSARY for our worship. I gather regularly with my brothers and sisters in Christ in a church building NOT because the building is holy. In Christ, the PEOPLE are made holy, and we gather together in physical locations, but as a living temple encouraging one another to faith in Christ.
Worship is no longer about WHERE, but WHO. Therefore, we do not have to engage in holy war(ship) over a GPS pin in the Middle East. If I believed what the Jews believed, I would desperately want the Temple Mount as well. However, Christ has revealed to us that it is not about the mountain on which you worship, but about truly connecting our spirit with the God who created all places on this earth . . . and that is only possible through Jesus Christ.