Thursday, February 20, 2014

Be Holy - Like Your Father

            God is holy. Holy means “set apart” or “perfect, transcendent or spiritually pure.” Holy also brings to mind great and awesome power! To approach the holy can mean ones destruction. That is why the ancient Hebrew people were terrified to be in the presence of God or any of his “holy ones.” God is intrinsically holy – it is one of his foundational characteristics. People, obviously, are not intrinsically holy.

            God wants his people – all people, really – to be holy. Of course, since we are not intrinsically holy, our holiness must be an acquired holiness. It is a gift that Jesus wants to give us. It seems, at least to me, to consist of two distinct elements. There is the status of “holy” which Jesus confers upon us when we are saved. By his sacrifice and grace our sins are washed away and we are divinely declared righteous and holy. What an amazing gift! Then there is the living out of this holy status or state. We are to turn away from “the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance” and we are to “be holy in all you do.” (1 Peter 1:14-15).

            This paradoxical truth about holiness – that it is a gift from God that we must live out – creates positive spiritual energy in our lives and churches. First, since holiness is a gift, we can have confidence because our salvation and success in living as disciples does not rest finally in our performance; rather it is anchored in the goodness and generosity of God. Our faith is not in ourselves, or even in faith itself, rather our faith is in God. But because holiness is also a gift that must be lived out, our lives, choices and actions become meaningful. We are not automatons who stumble through life in a predetermined fashion with no options and no purpose. We are beloved children who have been blessed by our Father to become a source of blessing to others. This idea is as old as God’s call to Abraham and Sarah. Lived holiness is extremely attractive. It is also somewhat rare in our world.

            That is why Peter calls us to remember God’s desire for us to be holy. The holiness that God shares with us is not terrifying, rather it is a beautiful demonstration of what life can be. As I am writing this I am in intense prayer for the country of Ukraine as they are on the verge of civil war. The power of darkness is threatening to engulf both sides in the conflict. Yet moments of something holy keep showing up – a babushka with a cross standing between police and protestors; priests who position themselves between the protestors and police and sing hymns for an hour everyday; an impromptu worship service in the square when news of the truce is shared. Darkness always seems to be more powerful than light, but it is just an illusion (however powerful!). Holiness will lead us to become what God created us to be. Nothing else can do that. Be holy because your Father is holy.

- Kenny Payne    

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