46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. Matthew 5:46-48, CEB
What does it really mean to be holy?
In our services, and in these devotionals, we’ve offered a few ideas. We’ve talked about holiness as living with nothing hidden. We’ve talked about holiness as distinctiveness, or the act of being “set apart”. In other words, we live differently from the world around us because we try to live out God’s way of seeing, and this makes us different. When God asked Israel to be holy, he asked them to be different from the rest of the world so that people could see God in how they lived. We’ve also talked about holiness as living in completely loving ways, in response to this passage.
In some translations, these verses say something like “…be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” Many think that these verses refer to some verses from the Old Testament that say, “Be holy, as I am holy.” So, in theory, the concept of “perfection” is similar to that of “holiness”. But the word perfect doesn’t capture the whole meaning of the passage. The passage is about the way in which we love. We love without discrimination. And we love thoroughly, completely, and without the ability to pick and choose. So, if that’s what it means to be “perfect”, and perfect is similar to holy…then what does this mean? Could it mean, perhaps, that being holy is about living in complete, thoroughly loving ways? That’s still really difficult, undoubtedly, but is that a tiny bit more attainable than some abstract concept of living a life free of mistakes?
Yesterday I promised to offer a different way to approach difficult concepts when the concepts themselves are so emotionally charged. For example, if the word “holy” in and of itself is a trigger, then we’re going to have a hard time thinking about and talking about it. What do we do instead?
Just forget that word for a while. The word itself is immaterial. Think about loving thoroughly, completely, and without discrimination. We won’t do that perfectly, of course, but it’s something we can strive for.
God’s grace always covers us. It’s like an invisible cloak. It’s not going anywhere. So, give up the shame. Embrace the loving path forward knowing you’ve already been accepted and adopted and that God’s love is not as fickle as ours.