God chose us, in love, to be a holy people. (Ephesians 1:4)
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 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.” (New Revised Standard Version)
The Christian season of Eastertide is a time to focus on new life in Jesus Christ. God did more than save us for a future life; we are also delivered from sin, death, and hell to be a holy people.
Humanity, created in God’s image, is to reflect God’s character in all things. For example, unity, harmony, love, and peace always exists within the triune God. Therefore, we, too, are to be characterized with these same qualities. We are to be holy because God is holy.
Just as God is separated from evil, wickedness, impurity, and all that is wrong in the world – so, we are to live a holy life separate from everything that fosters division, hate, abuse, oppression, violence, pride, greed, theft, gluttony, avarice, adultery, and the host of human sins which bedevil the world.
God is not at all okay with racism, favoritism, gaslighting, bullying, selfishness, hubris, and all kinds of crimes against humanity which destroy both creature and creation. It goes against God’s holy Being.
Thus, a holy life involves both a separation from immoral and unethical thoughts, words, and practices; and a connection with integrity and right relationships. Holiness is to be thoroughly grafted into daily life.
The Israelites of the Old Testament had a clear understanding of holiness. In fact, an entire biblical book is devoted to holiness: Leviticus. The Apostle Peter drew from Levitical law when addressing the expectation of a holy life:
“I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44, NRSV)
“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2, NRSV)
“Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the God who makes you holy.” (Leviticus 20:7-8, MSG)
The ancient Israelites, through a series of regulations about what to wear and not wear, what to eat and not eat, how to relate to one another, etc. were continually reminded of God’s holiness. The importance of a pure life freed people from the drag of unholy living. Rather than following the crowd into mob action that damages people and property, holy living goes against the grain of popularity and seeks purity of life.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NIV)
Holiness means finding creative ways of connecting to one another, making a living, and promoting the common good of all persons. Holiness doesn’t involve impatience, tunnel vision, and allowing our shadow selves to call the shots. Holiness does involve expressions of love, peace, and unity – the very qualities that characterize God himself.
Confidence is born of trust in God’s kindness. Clarity of thought comes from immersing ourselves in God’s non-anxious presence. A holy life arises with the awareness and acknowledgment that God is with us.
Holiness can and must be an integral piece of meeting our basic human needs:
A significant part of holiness is being set apart from things which will harm us. To be holy means to avoid the stuff that separated us from God.
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. (Galatians 5:19-21, MSG)
Holiness really isn’t a downer. It helps bring contentment to our lives. Not only do we avoid the bad stuff, but we also prepare our minds for action and discipline ourselves to practice the good.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22-23, MSG)
We need relationships, to give and receive love, to have connection with others and God. A holy life is the strong supporting foundation on which we can build solid relationships.
You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home. (Ephesians 2:19-22, MSG)
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that all my thoughts may be holy, as yours are holy.
Act in me, heavenly Father, that my actions, too, may be holy, as yours is holy.
Draw my heart to you, Lord Jesus, so that I love only what is holy, as you love what is holy.
Strengthen me, Mighty God, to defend all that is holy, as you are just and holy.
Guard me, triune God, that I may always be holy, as you are always holy.