I think most people today are turned off by holiness. Maybe it’s because of the “holier than thou” attitude of someone in their lives. Maybe someone constantly criticized them or pointed out what they did wrong. Others might shy away from holiness because it seems unattainable. So any talk of living holy lives or striving for holiness discourages us. Why would we pay attention to something that discourages us or turns us off?
Yet God is holy. Jesus is holy. If God is ultimately good and holiness is part of that good, we need to rethink our attitude towards holiness. So what is holiness? We might think it’s only moral purity. Certainly that is part of holiness. But it actually means “set apart, uncontaminated, separate from.” So someone or something is holy if they (or it) are set apart from the ordinary to God.
God is holy because He is set apart from everyone and everything. With God there is no impurity, dishonesty, deceit, lying or hidden motives. God is God and there is no one like Him. That leads us to some discomfort. How do you relate to someone who is absolutely holy?
Perhaps that’s why many have tried to domesticate Jesus or bring Him down to our level. He was one of us. He knows what it’s like to be human. He was just one of many religious founders or “holy people” from the past. He would never condemn someone for being true to their heart and feelings.
Yet this reflects our preferences more than the reality about Christ. He “knew no sin.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was “tempted in every respect as we are yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). He lived a perfectly holy life during his time on earth and people flocked to Him. Somehow his holiness did not repulse them but attracted them. They saw the massive difference between Him and their religious leaders. They recognized His teaching had authority unlike those of the scribes. They cried out to Him for salvation for they saw one who could actually follow through and not get sidetracked by a bribe or power or his own selfish interests.
Yet we so quickly forget about God’s holiness and its potential attraction. We know this because of the extent of the holiness code in the Biblical book of Leviticus. Author Edward Welch writes “The sheer number of Old Testament holiness laws suggest that God’s holiness is too quickly forgotten. God imbedded reminders of his character in what his people ate, how they dressed, where they went, how they planted their fields, how they cut their hair and when and with whom they had sex. The Hebrews needed an hourly reminder of the holiness of God.” (Edward T. Welch, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel, P & R Publishing, Philips, NJ, 2001, 148).
We also need that constant reminder. We live in a culture saturated with unholiness. We see it subtly or blatantly slipped into what we watch, listen to or see advertised. We celebrate celebrities whose lives are completely contrary to God-centered holy living. We need the splash of the cold water in our face from God’s Word applied to our souls by the HOLY Spirit. So let us take a renewed look at Jesus attractive holiness today and every day until we see actually see Him.
“Lord Jesus, we love your love. But if we’re honest, we love to minimize your holiness. We take your love and twist it into unconditional acceptance or approval of everything we do. So help us to see what you offer as it really is – a Holy Love that forgives our sin but also calls and empower us to live set apart lives for your glory. Helps us to see the beauty of your holiness.”