Thursday, May 26, 2016

Holiness and Culture

Trees reflected in the River Raisin
In Exodus 15:11 we read these beautiful words: Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

The holiness of God is majestic. Awe-inspiring. Other. 

This word "holy" means "set apart." Like fine dinnerware gracing the table on the most special celebrations. Like a young man and a young woman who have set their hearts and bodies apart for the marital union.  That's different. 

This word "holy" can be translated as "different." But from what? From this fallen world. Different from the prevailing world system. Different from culture in the sense that one no longer worships before and under cultural liturgies. (On cultural liturgies see James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.) 

"Holiness" is as different from secular culture as light is from darkness. Holiness is light rather than darkness. Some thing, or someone, who is light would necessarily contain no darkness at all, just as a rose contains not one part dandelion. I began to learn this about God many years ago when I broke free from the evil and boredom of cultural ordinariness and caught sight of holiness. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) 

I'm talking about the majestic otherness of God. Which brings us to the plebeian subhumanity of us. Hebrews 12:14 says: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Why? Because God is holy, without remainder. Because I came to love God and desired God more than anything. Because I wanted to know God, with every fiber of my weak being.

More than anything. This is a mark of every true follower of Jesus who is captivated by a life of holiness. This is for every seeker who is sick and tired of trying to fit in with our sex-and-drug-and-appearance world and sets out to pursue holiness and difference, not for the sake of difference, but for the sake of the great calling and majesty of the One who made and sustains all things. (We could here make some post-structuralist, deconstructionst comments on pursuing différance rather than appearance.)

Holiness runs towards, not away. Holiness presses on, not languishes in. People who grow in holiness do so out of love, not out of fear. Holiness is attraction, not disappointment. Holiness is actualized possibility, not limitation. Holiness is liberation, not bondage. Holiness is revolutionary, not complacency. We leave the steel nets of our culture lying on the beach-heads of mediocrity so as to follow after He who is set apart and, ontologically, different.

Longing for God and finding Him. That's what holiness is about. 

Holiness is unique and non-comparative. When He found me and showed me His glory, I was ruined for this silly world of recurring sinful sameness that God died for. 

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BTW, if you are interested...  My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE

Paperback HERE and HERE.