Our community has been wrestling with the concept of holiness. More specifically, we’ve been thinking about holiness within the framework of action. What would it look like, we’ve wondered, if we thought of holiness as a verb? In a community that values telling the truth about brokenness, most of us end up triggered by such a haughty word as holy. And by golly gosh – that’s not unreasonable. I take this resistance (both mine and ours as a community) to holiness seriously. Here’s the thing about holiness – God’s word indicates that we are holy and we can be holy: “Be holy as I am holy,” is a command, not a suggestion.
I sit and ponder these things. I have a lot of experience with unholy living so for the scriptures to suggest that we are and we can be holy is shocking. I know that we humans are prone to forgetfulness, selfishness, and self-centered living – at least I am, and I suppose you might be as well? But I don’t just sit and ponder the ways of mere mortals; I also spend time reading, studying, and experiencing God. This is what I believe more than I doubt about our abilities as humans: I BELIEVE THAT GOD IS NOT ABUSIVE. That conviction colors everything I think and feel and do as it relates to the topic of holiness expressed in humanity.
As a child, I did not have a dad who read books on child development. Neither did my mom. They were completely normal for their generation in this regard. Dr. Benjamin Spock was an American pediatrician who wrote a book “Baby and Child Care” in 1946. He was one of the first pediatricians ever to study psychoanalysis and speak about children’s needs and family dynamics. My parents’ firstborn (me) arrived in 1956, so it’s not like there was no conversation about child-rearing happening, but it was not exactly popular in my household to think that parents should read books about their kids’ developmental needs. The other thing about Dr. Spock was this – he was anti-Vietnam War and an activist in the New Left. My father is a veteran, there is no way that Dr. Spock would have been read in the Jones household. That being said, I would say that there were times when maybe my brothers and I were expected to act, think, and feel in ways that probably were not developmentally…achievable. Of course, there were also plenty of times when we simply acted up! As a parent myself, I’ve tried to match development and expectation – although I’m not sure how successful I was at that. But I did major in psychology, and there were a few things that I didn’t expect my kids to grasp until they reached a certain age. God doesn’t need to read Dr. Spock to understand how his kids work. God is not abusive. God gets us; he studies us; he loves us; he pays attention to us; he is for us and not against us; he provides for us…on and on and on.
When God says, “Be holy as I am holy” I can only conclude that he is not dangling a carrot before us that we can never grab hold of and chomp on. For the next few devotionals, I’m going to share my research that came about as I curiously considered what in the world God was thinking when he PROMISED us that we could be holy. This isn’t just a rule to follow, it’s an implied promise, a vision of possibility…if we believe. To be continued….