How do you define holiness?
When I think of holiness, I think of reverence. I think consecrated. I think hallowed and sacred and perfect. Honestly, I think unattainable. So when God says that we are to be holy because He is holy, let’s just say it makes me a little uncomfortable.
Because the apostle Paul calls the law holy, I make a direct connection with holiness and following the law. And since we have been set free from the law (Romans 8:2), I start to wonder if I really need to be holy. Is that even possible?
But in Romans 12, Paul comes back to this concept of holiness. He says holiness is our “reasonable service”. In other words, he’s saying that holiness is the least we can do in response to what Jesus has done for us.
So either he’s saying that I need to do better at following the law (because it is holy) or I need to reframe how I view holiness.
The gospel of Luke tells a story of a Pharisee who invited Jesus over to his house for a meal. He was surprised when Jesus doesn’t wash before the meal. He was probably deeply offended and visibly upset because Jesus’s response to him is pretty severe.
He accuses the man of having an outward appearance of holiness while his heart was full of greed and wickedness. He then begins to proclaim a bunch of “Woes” to him and as I read them I’m like, WHOA. Jesus talks about how the Pharisee’s load all these laws on people’s backs and they do nothing to help them carry it.
They were so mad at him because he called them out on their junk. He exposed their outward appearance because He could see straight to their heart.
If I’m going to reframe holiness, this seems like a good place to start. Throughout the Gospels, I don’t see Jesus impressed with anyone’s attempts at outward holiness. He always addressed the state of people’s hearts.
Maybe holiness is an internal reality more than an external one. Maybe it has nothing to do with rule keeping. Maybe holiness isn’t always evident in our actions. Sure, holy actions come because of the position of our heart. But if we seek external holiness first, we may be in for a pretty big “woe”. Pun intended.
I don’t have this figured out completely but as I draw more closely to Jesus, I see how He’s more concerned about the motives of my heart than the actions of my hands. Maybe it’s because He knows that when my heart is right, the actions will come naturally.
How do you view holiness? How much is internal vs external?