One of the most befuddling (when I say befuddling, I mean I just can’t figure it out) things about Christianity for me is the juxtaposition between Jesus’ holy and our holy. When Jesus, the most holy and pure person ever, rubbed shoulders with the non-religious (“sinners”) they were amazingly attracted to him, but when most Christians come in contact with the non-religious (“sinners”) there are adverse reactions. You’ve seen the reactions toward Christians – they are haters, homophobes, judgmental, bound up – all reactions to Christians trying their level best to be…you got it, holy.
There is consistent and strong evidence that suggests that most people still find Jesus incredible attractive, at least intriguing. The evidence is even stronger that people don’t find Christians that way. Christ followers are to be holy yes, but there must be something different in the balance here.
In 1953, C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter:
“How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, it is irresistible.”
Irresistible? That might be worth rediscovering.
I believe that there must be a reorientation of our understanding of holiness. Instead of an externalized “we have to look or act a certain way” type (usually a form created by some ecclesial authority), I really believe that we must look carefully at what our model, Jesus portrayed for us.
Here are a few ideas that might help:
1) Never react
You have heard the saying, “Never let them see you sweat.” Well, I don’t want to be disingenuous, but it would serve us well to move away from our own reactive posture. One reaction generates another. I have made an internal vow that I will never react to someone else’s behavior, regardless if I am in agreement with it or not. I could be just freaking out inside, but on the outside, I want to behave and act with love and honor toward whomever I run across. Why? See #2.
2) Recognize the Imago Dei
Ever person you see, every man or woman you lock eyes with was created uniquely in God’s image. Sin has certainly injured that, but there is still a deeply embedded dignity, ontology worth…even in the worst of the worst (although how does a scale on this stuff really work when each of us have sinned enough to draw the holy Jesus to a cross?). The Imago Dei actually has profound implications if we can live into its truth. We can treat people different, with honor beyond what their behavior might warrant, because of who they are, not what they’ve done or are doing.
3) Learn about humility
Part of the reaction Christianity gets is because of its desire for control and power. I know, you may not see it this way, but think about this. Why do people get mad or reactive? Answer: Because something is being taken from them. For many, I might say, most Christians, believe that our country was started as a Christian nation (debatable, but not at this time) and feel like it is being hi-jacked by _________________ (you feel in the blank). The upshot of this is a reactive posture toward culture. Need I remind you that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood (Ephes 6)?
4) Spend time pondering the Gospels
This is really the main reason I think there has been a “red letter” (reading Jesus' words, as opposed to Paul, et al) shift in many people view of Scripture. We need to read the Gospels slowly, read them often, and read them believing. I read years ago in a Eugene Peterson book (from Eat This Book) that we are to read Scripture meditatively. He described this notion with an ancient analogy. He said the idea of meditating on Scripture was liken to a dog gnawing in a bone. If you have ever seen that, the visual image lurches out at you. A dog tirelessly grinds on a bone in a hundred different directions, seeking to mine out every possible prospect of meaty goodness (you gotta think like a dog to really get it – ok, just like me eating a T-bone steak). When was the last time you meditated on Jesus’ life found in the Gospels? There is something captivating and reorienting about Jesus…how he lived, what he said, how he responded, how he showed compassion…
and yes, how he was holy.
Question: Have you ever been injured by Christians (or the church) trying to be "holy?"