In my first post on holiness, I introduced the novel idea that holiness means simply being different from a dysfunctional world. I also gave some examples of being different in an attractive way, including selflessness, not living for money or possessions, being a true listener, and not being hateful or malicious. Now, let’s look at some more examples.
Believe it or not, the world is looking for people who live the Bible’s sexual ethic: sex exclusively between a husband and a wife. The world is looking for the modern equivalent of the whooping crane: couples who wait until marriage, and then enjoy each other as long as they both shall live. The world wants to see evidence that it can be done, and that the results are happier that way. It’s like the Oregon joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum that it can be done!”
Now, there is no need to criticize those who fail or make mistakes in the area of sexuality. They’ve got enough pain; I don’t need to add to it. That’s my point. God wants us to avoid heartache. God wants the very best for our love life. That’s one way where being holy, being different, pays huge emotional rewards.
More than ever before, the world is looking for people who can be trusted. They want people who don’t blow off promises or commitments, people who do what they say they will do. They want people who won’t pretend to be friends and then stab them in the back. As much as the world rewards posers and pretenders by falling for their sweet-talk, the world wants people who are genuine, people who will say what they mean and mean what they say, people who won’t bend, fold, or mutilate the truth, even if it is costly for them to avoid doing so. People who refuse to lie are a huge part of what it means to be holy, to be different.
The world is also looking for people who believe what they claim to believe. Back in the 1700’s, the famous skeptic David Hume was seen running to hear George Whitefield, the Billy Graham of that day. Someone asked him, “Why do you want to hear him? You don’t believe what he believes.” And Hume replied, “Of course I don’t. But he does!” Likewise, modern atheist Christopher Hitchens, after a debate with a Christian named Larry Taunton, was asked by his opponent why Hitchens didn’t rip him up like he’s done with other opponents. Hitchens answered, “Because you believe it.” (See https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/listening-to-young-atheists-lessons-for-a-stronger-christianity/276584/.)Penn Jillette from Penn and Teller, who is an atheist, says he doesn’t respect believers who don’t proselytize. He wants to know how you can believe in heaven and a hell and not tell somebody because you’re afraid of being socially awkward; you must hate them! (See above link.) Another atheist says, “I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.”
The world doesn’t want people who believe just because others want them to, or because it’s the easy thing to do. The world is looking for people who don’t back down, who don’t pursue faith as a nice faith tale that is never to be taken seriously, people who passionately believe, and who live like they believe it. That’s part of what it means to be different.
A church whose people have their act together could be powerfully attractive to a world that is looking for a better life. There are a lot of people who don’t go to church because they don’t see any reason to. They don’t see how our lives are any different than theirs. How much change has Christ made in our lives? Has Christ given us peace and joy? Has he given us reason to live that we didn’t have before? Has he made us less jerky people – less selfish, less hateful, more caring, more loving, more sacrificial, more emotionally healthy and mature? Has he replaced our confusion with confidence on the issues that truly matter in life? Has he broken the chains on us that enslave so many people’s lives?
Show me a place where God is changing people’s lives, and you’ll see people breaking down the door to get into that church. You’ll see communities that refuse to zone those churches out of business, because the community can’t do without them. People are looking for a church that is different, and what they’re looking for (I would say) is a church that is holy, whether they would call it that or not.
In these two posts, I have hopefully cast for you a new vision of what it means to be holy. It means being set apart, being different in a positive sense. In a messed up world that is sick of its own dysfunctionality (whether they realize it or not), people who are different offer a better way to live. They offer tremendous benefits to those who live around them. If you think about it the right way, being holy – being set apart – being different from a dysfunctional world – is the most attractive, appealing way to live.