The Greek historian Plutarch tells a story about the Spartan king Agesilaus, a mighty warrior who was once asked by a visitor to Sparta about the city’s lack of fortified walls. Agesilaus looked around and pointed to the many citizens under arms: “These are Sparta’s walls,” he said. When another put the same question to him, he replied, “Cities shouldn’t be fortified with stones or timbers, but with the valor of their inhabitants.”
Chiseled citizens concealing swords were Sparta’s ramparts. These living walls walked around the city and watched, ready to defend their home from enemies. According to the Apostle Peter, the temple of God on earth today is also made up of living materials. Holy bricks hand-chosen by Jesus Christ—the chief Cornerstone—who aren’t warrior-athletes but warrior-priests. “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
This tells us something important about the nature of discipleship. Christian disciples aren’t lone survivors, growing (or built) in isolation. Just as one fence post could never defend a city, one stone could never make up a temple. True discipleship happens as we’re fit together by God in the community of faith. Men and women from around the world are the organic bricks of God’s temple, and Jesus is the temple builder. He leaves no gaps in the heavenly house, placing us where we belong for the temple’s benefit. Each brick has its purpose, just as the different members of the body have their unique functions (to borrow from the Pauline metaphor in 1 Cor. 12).