Friday, August 23, 2013

Holiness Is Not Daunting!

What do you often think of when you hear the word "Holy" or "Holiness"? 

If you are like me, as someone who has been raised in the Wesleyan and Nazarene church and now ministering in the Free Methodist church, you might first of all be inclined to think of rules. Rules which, in days past, stated you couldn't wear jewelry, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, go to a dance or a movie, as these things were in contradiction to living a Christ honoring life.

But are those things really holiness?

Let me start by saying I have known some wonderful people who have been filled by the Holy Spirit, who have long struggled to give up the addictions of their past, whatever those addictions may be. These are people who, because of the struggle, found it difficult to fit in with those people who had abstained from such things their entire lives, to the point where they would leave the particular church and go elsewhere.

I have also known people who would never touch a drop of alcohol or a cigarette, and not waste money on movies, but their reasons for doing so were not connected with any type of religious belief.

Like many things in our world, what started out as something good became, over time, distorted and oppressive. God gave Moses the Law, which he in turn gave to the Hebrew people. By the time Jesus came to earth, the representation of the completion of the Law, the pharisees had taken the law and made it oppressive, missing the point as to why the Law was given in the first place.

Holiness should be understood in light of how scripture defines it. That isn't to say that the standard of living within the Wesleyan Holiness churches were wrong or bad, but they were given a greater emphasis and the original intent was, I believe, lost over time. A greater emphasis also was given to our interpretation.

Holiness isn't about abstaining from certain things. Holiness needs to be about imitating Christ in our world through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul outlines in the book of Philippians "the fruit of the Spirit" which, I see, is the truest definition of holiness that exists. Those people who have love, and joy, and peace, patience, kindness, who demonstrate goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control are people who live separate from the world, not because of anything they do necessarily, but because of Who they have submitted to.

What we should also keep in mind is that holiness is not about man's standard of what is and isn't acceptable to God, but it is about God's standard. Don't get me wrong, I can say with all confidence that abstaining from certain things is preferable and healthful. But while we have traditionally stayed away from alcohol and tobacco we've also embraced overeating. Growing up in the churches I did the unwritten rule at a potluck was a three plate minimum stacked with at least four different types of food. And that wasn't counting dessert. Heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are just as detrimental to our health, but if the standard is to be evenly applied, when it is man's standard we are following, overindulgence should be as chided as drinking and smoking. There are other things I could mention as well, but I do not wish to overdo it. 

Plus, judging by man's standard puts us in a position where we might find ourselves at odds with Matthew 7, where Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount talks about judging others. If holiness is God's standard, then God, and not we, must be the one to judge.

I must say, I do fully embrace the holiness message, and thankfully the entirety of it is not wrapped up in what is forbidden. But, just as holiness is us being perfected in Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit, so is our knowledge of what it means to be a holy people.

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