Holiness That Hurts the Eyes

What is the vision?
The vision is holiness that hurts the eyes.
It makes children laugh and adults angry.
It gave up the game of minimal integrity long ago to reach for the stars.
It scorns the good and strains for the best.
It is dangerously pure.

Holiness is notoriously hard to define. Some people say it means set apart, or whole, or pure. It is both the core characteristic of God and also a characteristic of his people. We are to strive for holiness, yet we are already holy.

When I read the 600+ times that the word holy is used in the Bible, the first thing I clearly see is that it carries the meaning of “set apart.” There are lots and lots of references to things being “holy to the LORD,” things like the priests’ garments, and the Sabbath, and everything in the Temple, and, most importantly, the people of Israel.

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
(Deuteronomy 7:6 ESV)

We are holy. Set apart. And what does it mean to be set apart? It means to be different. To be a blue monkey in a brown monkey’s world.  To keep ourselves free from the patterns of the world. To march to the beat of a different drum.

Why should we be holy?

For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.
(Leviticus 11:44 ESV)

Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh… HOLY, HOLY, HOLY. This is God’s defining characteristic–not love, as some would think. At the end of time, we will be gathered around the throne of heaven, worshiping him for his holiness.

God is set apart in a huge way. He is completely Other, as different from us as an alien from another universe would be on Earth. He is so, so different from everything he has created. We are made of dust… he was never made of anything. He is I AM. That was the only was he could define his existence to Moses. Just “I AM.”

And we are to be holy as he is holy??

Here’s the thing, though. We have no capacity to be holy in and of ourselves. We have been made holy through Christ’s blood. So we are already holy… but we don’t always live like it.

So what does a lived-out holiness look like? 1 Peter chapter 1 spells it out for us. The first part talks about the living hope and the inheritance we have in Christ. Then:

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy…Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.”
(1 Peter 1:13-16, 22 ESV)

So, as I see it, holiness is about being set apart from the things of this world by keeping our attention on the things of God and living in love and purity.

And yes, it hurts the eyes.

Moses’ face shone when he talked with God. (Exodus 34) Jesus shone in the Transfiguration. (Matthew 17) Whenever the Bible visually represents holiness, it’s a brilliant light. Fierce and blazing. And the darkness hates it.

People get confused and offended by radiant holiness. It defies every selfish, momentary, flesh-driven impulse of this world. People feel exposed in the light, so they squint, put up their hands, reach for their sunglasses. After all, this is not a nice safe little glow. This is an explosion, like a Time Lord regenerating.* Maybe we are constantly regenerating, constantly being made new. And anyone who gets too close may very well be swept up in the blaze.

This is a holiness that is not content to settle for what our culture considers “good enough,” or even “successful.” It is simply not interested in playing the game. It is always pushing to be more like Jesus.

There’s even a “good enough” in church culture. There’s a tendency to compare ourselves to others around us, and there’s a nice comfortable minimum that we have reached by silent consensus. But our calling was never for “good enough.” It was for radical consecration.

I want to be that person who blazes like Moses. I want to be so extremely different from the patterns of this world that people squint when they look at me.  I don’t ever want to settle for “good enough” and I refuse to let anything compromise me.

Better bring your sunglasses, baby.


*Doctor Who reference. Pardon my geekness. See picture below.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rachel Wilson
    Mar 18, 2012 @ 04:24:51


  2. Trackback: Every Secret Motive « Fragrance Arise
  3. Trackback: What is the Beauty of God? | Fragrance Arise

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