March 25, 2011

A Different Question on Holiness

Holiness, Holiness is what I long for
Holiness is what I need…

You know you’ve been there.  It’s the last song…head held back, arms lifted, singing this over and over

And over
And over
And over

After eternity ends and Jesus comes back, it’s done and you walk out in the lobby (that’s church-code for “Gossip Central”), where you hear about the worship leader’s son’s girlfriend’s pregnancy, how the pastor’s socks were mis-matched, and those rumors about how the children’s director got a speeding ticket and thus needs to resign.

Is there a problem with this picture?

The words of Jesus ring ominously when He says, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  Seriously?  Jesus, who walked on water and turned water into wine?  Who went 40 days without food?  Who withstood temptation from Satan himself?

How am I supposed to be just as holy as Him?

An Attempt

If we see holiness on a scale, a grade of goodness that goes from good to bad, then giving up is the only way.  That’s the problem with religion, it puts a limit and a scope on holiness that is contextual, and then conveniently provides rules and regulations that will help the unsuspecting church-member to fit that scope.  Some of the more common rules are:

Don’t drink, it’s a sin
Don’t listen to music that isn’t Christian (minimum limit of 5 clichés per song)
Don’t miss church, that’s a sin too
Don’t hang out with too many people who aren’t Christians
Don’t question your faith
Don’t appear weak or vulnerable
Don’t challenge church leaders

Church culture defines holiness, sets the rules for attaining it, and then releases a package via an established institution for people to either follow, or “fall away”.  Ironically, this culture overlooks some overt sins like gossip, because certain sins actually enforce the rules.

A Problem

The problem is that holiness is not that simple, and Jesus wouldn’t fit in with any of these religious games churches play with.  He didn’t restrict Himself, in fact, He did the exact opposite.  He went to the clubs, the bars, and the crazy parties of His day. He made alcohol and drank it too.  He hung out with hookers in clear heels and white collar crooks who robbed the poor.  He made fun of the ‘church leaders’ of His day and cussed out Jewish holy men in the temple, saying they were sons of Satan.

So, by today’s standards, Jesus wouldn’t be allowed to give the announcements in children’s church.

A Different Question

We need to ask a different question about holiness.  It isn’t about ‘is this word holy’, ‘is this music holy’, ‘is this drink holy’, or ‘is this movie holy’. The holiness of a thing is not about the thing itself, but to what the thing points to.

Does my beverage consumption show my love for Jesus?
Does my consumption of and conversation about artistic expression show I love Jesus?
Does where I spend my time point to Jesus?
Does my social structure reflect Jesus’?
Am I authentic as to reflect Jesus?
Do I challenge sin in my own life to help others love Jesus?
Do I challenge authorities and rules that go against the principles of Jesus?

See the difference?  Everything points back to Jesus, how HE would react, and the questions don’t refer back to US and OUR definitions of holiness, but to how we are connecting our lives and choices back to Jesus. 

Holiness isn’t found in restriction, but in redemption.

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