Growing up in a Pentecostal background much emphasis was put on the need to be holy. I was told that God was holy – and I needed to be also.
Well – Scripture does back that up.
In the Old Testament God is called “Qedosh Y’Israel – Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah uses this term multiple times – I counted 29 times. Perhaps he used this term so much because of his vision of the Holy One. Jeremiah and Ezekiel also used that term as did the Psalmist.
The New Testament affirms that Jesus is holy.
Luke tells us in his Gospel that Gabriel told Mary:
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.
Evil spirits, when confronted with Jesus recognized His holiness as Mark tells us:
Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
And both the Old Testament and the New Testament called for us to be holy also.
Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Tell the whole congregation of Israel: Be holy because I, Yahweh your Elohim, am holy.
Peter reiterated this command to be holy as he reminded us what the God had spoken in the Old Testament:
For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
Being holy is an important thing because the writer to Hebrews declared:
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
But, what exactly does it mean to be holy? That has been a subject of debate and study for centuries so I am not going to pretend that I have “the” answer. But I think for too long we have looked at holiness as something we can obtain by our own efforts.
We see it in every denomination as we all have our lists of “do’s” and “do not’s”.
For me a lot of what it meant was all about outward appearances – and most of that was for the women.
- Your hair must be long
- You cannot wear any makeup
- You cannot wear slacks or pants
- You cannot wear jewelry
And on and one the list went with what I could not do. Not much was said about what I should do.
I joke now that if I wanted to know if something was a sin I would just ask myself “Would I have fun if I did this?” If the answer was “yes” it was probably a sin. It really was not that bad, but it always gets a laugh.
The big one for my Catholic girlfriends was
- You cannot use birth control.
I want to share more in future posts about how I came to realize holiness was more about what was inside of me than outside. I don’t want to give the impression that being holy does not require an effort on our part but I believe (as I will share more in later posts) that holiness shows up on the outside only when it is rooted on the inside.
For now I would love to hear from some of you on this subject of holiness.
- What does holiness mean for you? How would you describe it to an unbelieving friend?
- What were some of the “rules” you grew up with in your church?