For many years, I thought that holiness is sort of conferred upon Christians, maybe a little like knighthood. When I hear other Christians talk, it sounds as if they may be under the same impression.
There also seems to be disagreement on when holiness is conferred. Pentecostals might say it’s when the Holy Spirit “comes upon” people. They’re holy if they speak in tongues. Baptists might say it’s when adults get baptized. They’re holy when they rise from the water. Evangelicals might say you’re holy when you witness to others.
Holy means set apart for special use—not in a condescending way, but a remarkable way. You might say remarkably different. Uncommonly good. There’s a certain nobility to it, so maybe holiness is a little like knighthood. But it’s a command we follow rather than something conferred on us. And, obviously, it must be doable or it wouldn’t be a command.
Holiness is associated with rightness, goodness, and perfection (completion). “But just as he who called you is holy, so you be holy in all you do.” (1Pet. 1:15) “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat. 5:48)
Fortunately, and contrary to some teaching, holiness isn’t about being flawless, omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient. If it were, Scripture would command us to be God, which is impossible and makes no sense. Being holy is about being whole, becoming right again, sound of mind, will, body, and behavior—all elements of personhood aligned with God’s will for mankind’s good. In other words, His love.
Biblical love is nothing fancier than the will and desire for His greater good in any situation. Yet there’s nothing nobler. It may be holy and misunderstood, but not impossible.
You’ve heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward will you get? Aren’t even tax collectors doing that? If you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Don’t even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat. 5:43-48)
God is looking for people of remarkable character who can do what is commonly thought to be un-doable. He wants this not so we can satisfy His ego, but so He can safely share power and glory with us; so He can trust people with the dominion He originally intended.
Dominion without love always leads to ill will, self-righteousness, fear, manipulation, unkindness, and other sins that become the accepted norm. When the love of most, even Christians, grows cold, no one expects anything different or remarkable. People are thus unprepared for the fullest life with God—both in earthly life and the afterlife when ruling and serving in good will is the name of the game.
So I think churches need to better define, prioritize, model, and teach love. Let’s not just talk about how much “God loves you” or say that Jesus loves you enough to die for you, then leave it there like a penny on the sidewalk. We should teach how to love as Jesus loves and why it’s essential to pick it up and practice it. The Sermon on the Mount is where Jesus himself taught it.
(I wrote two very basic 6-part blogs on the Sermon’s content—one entitled 6 Steps to Unsabotage Yourself in Every Relationship, the other entitled 6 Sneaky Ways to Poison Your Spirit. If you’d like to read them, you can use the Search box at the top of the sidebar.)
Christians talk about saving the soul, and by that they usually mean securing “eternal destiny” after physical death. But God doesn’t just save the soul and abandon the person. The soul is the person. And it isn’t just about future well-being, but about present well-being, too. Holiness is intended for the whole person and the whole world, to calm and comfort the cries of the soul.
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jhn. 13:34-35)