Friday, March 12, 2010

The Irony of Holiness

Holiness is one of the most uncomfortable words in the Christian vocabulary. Holiness. Did you get a chill? Hebrews 12:14 says, "without holiness no one will see the Lord." Yikes!

Let me call "time out" for a minute and lighten the mood. Can we be real for a moment? I think there's a certain irony to the fact that as Christians we are flawed human beings trying to be like our perfect God. Come on. R U serious? Notice my texting is rubbing off on my prose.  Please allow me to shed some light on a little known fact among the faithful: we CAN'T be holy, at least not in the sense of perfection that we normally (wrongly) think.

It pains me to watch so many of God's children trying to either pay God back for sending Jesus to die for them (impossible), or make him happy in order to get him in their corner. After all, isn't it good to have a little Jesus in your pocket for a rainy day? There are also those who think that after salvation we have to feverishly strive to keep God from thinking he made a mistake when he reached down to us with his grace. All of these things are terrible perspectives that we should fall down and beg forgiveness for. Why?

Let me read a little bit of the context and see if you get the picture. Here again is Hebrews 12:14 (in its entirety) with verse 15 thrown in to increase the fun.

"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

Why would the author feel the need to include the second sentence with the first? Is he talking about saving grace? I think not. The reason, from my flawed perspective, is that too many of us forget that grace not only saves us but sustains us as well. Do you know how profound this is? Let me put this verse in my own words. Ready? Here goes: "If you are a true Christian you'll do everything you can to set yourself apart without being obnoxious. But, beware the bitterness that comes from trying to do so without remembering the day to day grace that sustains you."

Here's a thought. In our efforts to be like God we might mess up. Horrors! I know what you're thinking, I'm being flippant about it. Well maybe I am poking a little fun. But I just can't help myself. One of my favorite things to do when one of my kids is in a sullen mood is to tickle them. First, I'll just poke them in the side cautiously and retreat. Then I come back and do it a bit more and then really go for it. I love this because they try to  keep from smiling at first. They hold onto that frown with all their might (you know, like the people that know happiness and holiness can't possibly be related to each other)! Then it happens, the corner of their mouth turns up and before you know it they can't help but forget their mood and join in the mirth.

So, by all means, let's be holy. But come now, let's give up all of that human effort perfection nonsense. Taste the irony!

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