Holiness as Culture

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November 27, 2012 by DKC

At GCC of West Oak Lane we are looking at the book of 1 Peter and interesting enough my pastor hit on a key passage of Scripture two Sundays ago. 1 Peter 1:15, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.” Holiness is a way of life and it is a reflection of our Creator. When those who trust in God demonstrate holiness we represent God Himself. The challenge to be godly is a serious challenge and many have taken the challenge to mean various things. Some say that holiness means that those who call themselves disciples of Christ should remove themselves from society, “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17) Paul’s admonition is against the lure of ungodly allegiances between believers and unbelievers such as in a marriage relationship. His reference pulls in Exodus 20:3, “Have no other gods before me.”  Holiness does convey a separation from those things that displease God.

I totally agree–part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ is removing oneself from the unclean thing as it were. If anything challenges total allegiance to the Almighty we ought to reject it.  In a recent small group gathering it was suggested, and I believe it is important to keep in mind that holiness has a positive social dynamic. Holiness is not simply about restraint but it is also an invasion into culture to remake or redeem humanity’s way of life–it is a paradigm shift. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” It seems that the “saltiness” Jesus references is the equivalent of holiness within culture. Here we have yet again another call to not only be holy, but to also be missional. The Missio Dei of God or the Mission of God is that God Himself goes to redeem the souls of mankind wherever they may be. He goes and introduces new life into graveyards and calls men and women to be like Him.

For a long time I would attach ‘holiness’ to certain denominations. These were those denominations that stayed in church all day, wore black and stayed away from wearing red lipstick and bright clothing.  Holiness was equated with looking solemn.  This particular image of holiness doesn’t attract, but repels–it is not missional and it is misses the true essence of godliness. Granted holiness has two sides–in one sense it is about not engaging in the trinkets of this life, but it is also about living in society and having social interactions with those not like us so that we might represent the God we serve. On the flip side holiness must be married to a missional mindset. When society gets to see Christlike character in contrast to the dark deeds of a fallen world many will reach and grasp for the hope of the gospel–they will yearn for good news. The light outshines the darkness. Paul says, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Holiness without mission appears Pharisaical and mission without holiness appears faddish and easy to dismiss.  Peter encouraged the elect exiles scattered throughout Asia Minor to live a life that is so attractive that it can not be ignored. Those who follow Christ will find themselves placed in key places in the world–our placement in society is not an opportunity to blend in. We should not be consumed by the culture but instead we are called seek the peace of the city, to display a missional holiness that causes others to halt and inquire about our God. 

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