The Holiness Program and No Empty Words
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” (Lev 19:2)
This is a loaded concept for me.
I spent many years in an evangelical holiness church. There was a lot said about “holiness”. We had sermons on it, talked about it, even sang about it. Despite all of this, the meaning was never completely clear to me.
So here we are, sixth day of lent and holiness is the topic. How shall I start? Well, sometimes, when I cannot figure out exactly what something is, I find it helpful to go over what that something is not. So here goes. I will be using Jesus’ life as the framework in this.
- Holiness does not mean I follow the “rules” of a particular church, denomination or even society. Jesus often broke the “rules” in order to tend to the larger needs of the people around him. He healed on the Sabbath, and his disciples harvested grain on the same day. He hung around with “undesirable” people like a tax collector, and allowed a woman of ill repute to anoint his feet with oil. All this to the chagrin of the Pharisees.
- Holiness does not mean that I consistently face the world with a calm and serene disposition, appearing full of faith and never doubting. Jesus experienced all the emotions we as human beings share. There were times when he was angry, frustrated, impatient, weeping, anxious, afraid … He was fully divine. But also fully human.
- Holiness does not mean I am set apart from the rest of humankind. Jesus made himself available to people from all walks of life. He did not live cloistered away in religion. He travelled from place to place, meeting, talking to, socializing with, eating and drinking and healing all sorts of people.
- Holiness does not entail regular attendance and a prescribed monetary giving at a church. None of this was a part of Jesus’ life. He did not postpone meeting with people because He had to attend temple on the Sabbath. He did not turn over 10 percent of the money he earned during the week. He needed what he earned to look after himself and his disciples. There is no sin in this. And holiness seems to be about so much more.
So, what is holiness?
I’m no expert. But from looking at Jesus’ life, I think it has a lot to do with these two things:
- Being authentically yourself, which is the self God has called you to be. I don’t believe any of us are required to fit into a small claustrophobic box of what some church feels is an appropriate example of “holy” behaviour.
- Being authentically in relationship with other people. Get to really know people. Listen to them. Help where you can. Encourage them. Visit them. Meet people on their own turf. Offer Grace and Forgiveness. All this brings healing.
I have kept up with my pledge to read my booklet and reflect on Lent each day. However, I have been sick with a flu and unable to write each day. Consequently, I have combined two days in this blog entry. Day 7 was about praying the Lord’s prayer. I think it builds nicely upon day 6 and holiness. To me, this prayer has always been about loving and honouring God and showing this through our respectful and loving behaviour toward others.