February 24, 2011

Holiness: The Humble Distinction

"...you shall be holy, for I am holy." --1 Peter 1:16

Holiness seems to be one the those subjects no one likes to talk about anymore. Is there something un-modern about holiness?

Last summer, I worked in a venue where lots of visitors from different countries and different parts of this country visited. Religious groups wearing early 20th century and late 19th century clothing often visited with us and I wondered if they thought they were holy, or set apart, because they dressed so differently from everyone else.

Yes, their clothing was modest. Since I'm a history buff, I found the clothing interesting and paid careful attention to it. Others often stared at the "early-clothing" wearers, and others laughed at them. Getting laughed at doesn't mean you are wrong, or off track. In fact, you may be doing exactly that you should do---and still be on the receiving end of a laugh from someone because your self-comfort makes their self-discomfort more obvious.

But watching the "early-clothing" wearers made me rethink more deeply what holiness looks like. I then decided it doesn't really look like anything.

Humbleness is a major part of holiness, and humbleness doesn't draw attention to itself for the sake of attention. I am not accusing the early-clothing wearers of doing that, but I think a lot of people suggest that you must do something that sets you apart in order to the considered holy.

In fact, you must be something that sets you apart in order to be holy. That distinction can only be given by God. It is, therefore, OK for me to wear modern (but modest) clothing, modern hairstyles, a little make-up if it helps me out a bit, use contemporary technology, and know what is going on in the world. None of these things can remove me from the circle of the holy. From time to time, I still encounter someone who tells me I am not quite there because of a hairstyle, choice of boots, or something else that has nothing to do with my state of mind or state of faith.

Holiness is a distinction, but one that must be lived and is not readily visible. Haven't we all been fooled by outward appearances and books judged by covers?

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