It's cringey. I hold it at arm's length, rebelling against the notion. Words I subconsciously associate with holiness include rigid, inauthentic and starchy. And we've all met those people, the ones who are so afraid of grace they just keep trying harder. To be a holy believer is to be a Christian who doesn't make mistakes. Who shuts out the world because they're afraid of being tarnished. And if that's what it is to be holy, I want none of it.
And I suppose ultimately, there's a sense of inadequacy that rises with the word, I don't feel... well, holy enough to be called holy.
An intangible goal. An impossible calling.
I want to be free to chase God's heart with all the wildness within me, to run, to fall, to be picked back up again in grace. But I have a complex relationship with being holy.
It's too hard.
And yet, the call is clear and there in unmistakable black and white letters on the pages of my Bible.
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct... - 1 Peter 1:14- 15
You shall be holy, for I am holy. - Leviticus 11:44
I squirm. What's the point? I mean yes, I want to do the things that please God's heart because I love him. But to be holy feels unattainable.
And that's because it is. We love hearing about God's love and grace for the broken, sinful Christian because we can relate to that story. It's messy and unbelievable and beautiful. But this other child of God, the one who is called to holiness and separateness causes us to shift in our seats because we feel so far from that person.
How can the two exist?
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. - 1 Peter 2:9
When God asked the Israelites to have their beards a certain length, to be free from tattoos and not have clothing made from mixed thread it wasn't because doing those things made them holy. He asked them to make external distinctions symbolizing a deeper, more beautiful distinction. These were His people. They were different, and when they looked and acted different they pointed to the One that made them so.
Even though these days we wear shirts made of polyester and cotton, we still have that same calling. To be holy is to be different. And the point of being holy is to invite people into the excellencies of his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10
If your holiness isn't proclaiming God's mercy for the broken, then maybe it isn't holiness. Holiness is our way of marking ourselves as God's. It doesn't get us into heaven. Nothing but Jesus' blood and righteousness can do that.
But we wear holiness like a branded tattoo, inviting others into the same love and mercy we've experienced. We aren't starchy and rigid. Holiness doesn't keep people at arm's length.
In fact, Jesus' holiness came down from heaven, walked and breathed among us, and was given as a free gift to us, unworthy, ugly and wretched as we were. Holiness should always be an invitation, never a barrier.
Wear holiness like a giant welcome banner for those who feel as weak and incompetent as you do.
Keep your conduct among the world honorable so that... they may see your good deeds and glorify God... 1 Peter 2:13
That's the point of being holy. It's not what gets you to heaven or even keeps you there. It's your love letter to the world. It's God's love letter through you. An invitation to come, be loved and be cleansed.
So today, don't shrink back from the thought of being holy. Be brave enough to wear it like a giant welcome banner for those who feel as weak and incompetent as you do. We're proof that there's hope for the rest of the world.