The series of messages that I have been working through has been called Weird: Because Normal isn't working. The admonition to be holy is a call to be “different” or “set apart” from the world. The reason we are to do this is because God is holy and we are to be like him.
What does holy look like?
Many of us have strange views of what holiness is, and sometimes we end up striving or moving towards something that may not be holiness at all. The quandary that we end up in is how we can be holy without becoming legalistic.
Legalism is when spirituality becomes about do’s and don’ts.
I remember being confronted with this type of behaviour when I was younger. I was told that I was going to hell because I played cards. I was also told that I wasn't a Christian if I didn't vote Conservative in an election. I think many of us in the Evangelical church have been affected by this type of thinking. In many regards, it is easier to adopt a concept of holiness more closely aligned with the Pharisee's (the religious people of Jesus' time) than with Jesus.
Undoubtedly Jesus was the most Holy man who ever walked on the planet and yet he lived in such a way that the religious people said he was a “friend of sinners”. In their minds he hung out with the wrong sorts of people. Rebecca Manley Pippert summed it up so well in her book, Out of the Salt Shaker.
“But what do you do with a man who is supposed to be the holiest man who ever lived and yet goes around talking with prostitutes and hugging lepers? What do you do with a man who not only mingles with the most unsavoury people but actually seems to enjoy them? The religious accused him of being a drunkard, a glutton and having tacky taste in friends… Jesus was simply not your ideal Rotarian… It is a profound irony that the Son of God visited the planet and one of the chief complaints against him was that he was not religious enough.”
“The religious of his day were offended because he didn't follow their rules and traditions. He was bold and outspoken. He favoured extreme change and valued what they felt was insignificant, which was largely the “unlovely”… To say he was not the master of subtlety would be putting it mildly… I think Jesus would have been my last choice for a speaker at a fund raising drive. Imagine a scene in which you would gather all the powerful leaders and religious elite so they could hear Jesus give a talk (such as Matthew 23)…When they are seated, Jesus comes out and his opening words are “You bunch of snakes, you smell bad, you're hypocrites and blind guides. And I want to thank you for coming…” It was not exactly a speech that endeared the Pharisees to Jesus, which was what the disciples pointed out when they told him with a sudden flash of insight, “we think you might have offended them.” But for those who loved Him he was equally exasperating. He constantly kept smashing some of his own followers' expectations of what the Messiah should do. He simply did not fit there mold. He did not try to, they thought the Messiah would come in power and liberate Jerusalem… but the only power that Jesus demonstrated was the power of servanthood.” 1
Holiness is not a predictable journey.
Tim Hansel in his book Holy Sweat, has this wonderful poem describing the holy life.
The Road of Life
At first, I saw God as my observer,
keeping track of the things I did wrong,
so as to know whether I merited heaven
or hell when I die.
He was out there sort of like a president.
I recognized His picture when I saw it,
but I really didn't know Him.
But later on
when I met Christ,
it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride,
but it was a tandem bike,
and I noticed that Christ
was in the back helping me pedal.
I don't know just when it was
that He suggested we change places,
but life has not been the same since.
When I had control,
I knew the way.
It was rather boring,
but predictable . . .
It was the shortest distance between two points.
But when He took the lead,
He knew delightful long cuts,
and through rocky places
at breakneck speeds,
it was all I could do to hang on!
Even though it looked like madness,
He said, “Pedal!”
I worried and was anxious
“Where are you taking me?”
He laughed and didn't answer,
and I started to learn to trust.
I forgot my boring life
and entered into the adventure.
And when I'd say, “I'm scared,”
He'd lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts that I needed,
gifts of healing,
They gave me gifts to take on my journey,
my Lord's and mine.
And we were off again.
He said, “Give the gifts away;
they're extra baggage, too much weight.”
So I did,
to the people we met,
and I found that in giving I received,
and still our burden was light.
I did not trust Him,
in control of my life.
I thought He'd wreck it;
but He knows bike secrets,
knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.
And I am learning to shut up
in the strangest places,
and I'm beginning to enjoy the view
and the cool breeze on my face
with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.
And when I'm sure I just can't do anymore,
He just smiles and says . . . “Pedal.”
— author unknown 2
Let's take up his call to be different and join the adventure of a Holy Life.
1. Becky Manley Pippert, Out of the Salt Shaker (Downers Grove Ill.: Inter Varsity Press, 1979), 40-41
2 Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1987) 51-53