Today’s Thought: What does it mean to be “holy”?
Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter echoes God’s words from Leviticus 11:44, cautioning new believers about the unwanted desires they had before choosing to follow Christ. Their behavior was conformed to those desires out of ignorance, he says. Now, they are called to be different, to set themselves apart… to make themselves “holy” like God. So, what does it mean to be “holy”? Well… that’s sort of a trick question…
Peter’s statement about holiness is dangerous if read in isolation. His comment about being holy in our conduct can lead to the assumption that the quick way to holiness is to just generate a list of what not to do and then successfully avoid those things. However, as both Peter and Paul will emphasize throughout their letters and preaching, it’s the relationship we develop with God that leads to different behavior and subsequent holiness. Just behaving differently will never result in an authentic, holy relationship with God. In other words, before we can even consider holiness in the image of God, we must enter into relationship with God.
So, if we need relationship with God first in order to develop holiness, how do we do that? It’s like any other relationship: We introduce ourselves to God and ask to know him better. I’m being completely serious. It’s honestly that easy. Do I have to bow my head when I talk to God? You can if you want to, but there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for speaking to God. Should I use thee and thou a lot? I really wouldn’t recommend it unless you speak 16th Century Elizabethan English as your first language.
Listen, God wants to be in relationship with us. He wants us to learn what his holiness looks like and how we can mirror it. Why would he make it difficult for us to begin a relationship with him? The answer is, he doesn’t. We’ve all had relationships with others at some point in our lives, so we know a little bit about them, right? So, what do we know? Well, we know close relationships take time. It’s easy to have misunderstandings in a new relationship, so patience is key.
As a matter of fact, there might be times when we need to ask others what their relationship is like and how they converse with God. To do that, we need to seek out people who already know a little bit about God. Are you saying I have to go to church now? (‘Cause that might be a deal breaker.) No. I’m saying you might want to find people who already know a little bit about God and building relationships with him. Yes, they can be found in churches, but Christians don’t seclude themselves there, and not all who attend church have a deep relationship with Christ. Look around the places you typically hang out. Trust me, you’ll find a Christian or two who are trying to get to know God.
Give God a shout today. Check out some of his other acquaintances and close friends. Learn what a deep, authentic relationship with him is like. Then come back here and we’ll compare notes, because I’m still learning every day. It’s a journey, Friend, not a destination.
Wednesday’s Wisdom: “The way I see things, God loves you the same whether you’re [praying elegantly] or not. It feels much better when you are, but even when you can’t fake it, God still listens to your prayers. Again and again I tell God I need help, and God says, ‘Well isn’t that fabulous? Because I need help too. So you go get that old woman over there some water, and I’ll figure out what we’re going to do about your stuff.” ― Anne Lamott