I don’t want to just leave this to a footnote in a Left Behind post, because it’s much, much more than just a footnote in the Gospels, in Paul and in the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures: There is no such thing as holiness apart from love.
This is a frequent, vehement, anvilicious theme in the Bible. Yet the confusion persists. We continue to hear arguments premised on the idea that God’s holiness is somehow distinct from and counter to God’s love. But there’s nothing holy about any notion of holiness that is not an expression of love. Divorced from love, holiness becomes a toxic counterfeit of what it claims to be.
To accuse God of having some concern for holiness separate from love is to accuse God of lying while here among us, because Jesus did not allow for such a distinction. Lots of others habitually made this distinction, setting holiness apart from and even above the commandment to love. Jesus constantly, relentlessly condemned them for it.
“Who touched me?” Jesus said, and when the bleeding, unclean, unholy woman “saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him.”
“He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.'”
Anyway, I want to return to this point at greater length, but let me leave it at that for today because: 1) I’m running late getting ready for work, and 2) Trying to write about love and holiness has gotten the following song stuck in my head all day and, if you’re wise, you’d rather hear from the Rev. Green than from me anyway: