Thursday, April 23, 2015

50 shades of holy

I was having breakfast with my pastor friends this morning and something one of them said got me thinking about holiness. In the Bible God says, "Be holy, because I am holy" (Lev. 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). I'll get to what I think that entails in a minute, but my thought this morning was: How many pastors (I was thinking 'well-known' pastors) are thought of as "holy" people?

When I think of holy people the first ones that come to mind are the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Mother Teresa... they seem holy to me. But when I think of well-known pastors/church leaders, most of them seem to be known more for their organizational skills, or speaking skills, or their charisma. And isn't that what congregations long for in a pastor? Along with being young, having a wife who plays the piano, and a couple small children...

Our breakfast conversation also involved the idea of the "pastor" as "shepherd." Many people think of shepherding as "driving" or "herding" sheep, but I'm told the reality is that shepherds in the biblical sense led their sheep in a much different way. The sheep knew the sound of their shepherds voice, and they would simply follow.

So my question (to myself) is... How do most of our church leaders "lead"? It seems many of us have been guilty of trying to push people to do things (drive, herd, force, persuade...). I wonder if church leaders spent more time learning to live holy lives themselves, would that present a better picture of God's idea of discipleship than what we have? Would people be more willing to follow? Or is that even the point?

I certainly don't pretend to know the answer; I'm just thinking out loud. At any rate, I did stumble across a good article this morning "What Does God Mean When He Asks Us To Be Holy As He Is Holy?" The author points out that so many of us think of holiness only in terms of morality - the things we do or don't do. Godly holiness, though, is more the idea of being "set apart" for God; belonging to him. That's the only way we can be holy as he is holy - it's identifying with him through relationship with him. As the author says...
If we read the biblical understanding of holiness through the lens of our relationship to God, Jesus, as the unique revelation of God, becomes preeminent. Too often, our notions of holiness are lifted from the Old Testament [obeying rules] without understanding them in light of God's self-revelation in Jesus.
Those who have responded in faith to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ have been united with Christ. To be a Christian means far more than merely to believe in God—as if the Christian faith were reducible to a system of beliefs. Rather, it means to be united with Jesus in and through the Holy Spirit.

So being holy isn't merely about the things you do or don't do. It kind of paints the picture in my mind of simply being head over heels in love with Jesus. Being His. Belonging to him. Living for him. This man/God, who is the ultimate, perfect, being, and who holds the keys to the universe and all of time. What's crazier is... he wants to be in love with us too.

Well, this has turned into way too long of a post. I did want to include this quote I saw from Frederick Buechner this morning though. So I'll end with this:
IF THE WORLD IS sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party. The world says, Mind your own business, and Jesus says, There is no such thing as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, Follow me and be crucified. The world says, Drive carefully—the life you save may be your own—and Jesus says, Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world's sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under a delusion.
- Originally published in The Faces of Jesus