The news has been full of stories where people have been acting "human" - people failing others, letting others down. Are we okay with this explanation? Is this just the way it is? Are we to expect others to be "human" and let us down, or can there be another perspective, another expectation? The question isn't only about what explains the failure of people, but it's also a question about what you do next, after you have failed someone. Do you turn your back on failures? Excuse the behavior? Ignore it? Resent it?
This fundamental issue of humanity frames the importance for God's command to the Israelites - as well as to the Church - BE HOLY! We need that command - and all that it implies.
God commands his people to be holy. Why? Because he is holy. If God is our Father and we are his children, it makes sense that he would command us to be holy. But it's not only a command, it's a promise: you shall be holy. And it's a vision for our life: through you being holy God will heal and bless the world.
Do you ever think of yourself as holy?
Have you ever set a vision for your life that included the idea of "being holy?"
It's interesting: the idea of God being holy is central to our understanding of God - and yet we don't really know what the word means, and we give it almost no consideration for how to think of our life with God in this world.
Holy is a category word, meaning it denotes something that is set apart for special use. It is also a ethical word, since it's purpose for being set apart is for something good, right, just, beautiful, and true. So if God is holy, that means that he is set apart from everything else in existence, and his words and deeds are always good, right, just, beautiful, and true. Logically this means that nothing else in the world is intrinsically holy.
Nothing we can do can make us holy. Thus nothing we can do can make us unholy. We already are unholy, since we are not God. Only God can make us holy. Only God can choose to see us, categorize us, use us as holy. And if we respond to God's command and promise and vision to be holy, he outlines for us a way to do life in the spirit of being holy.
What's the essence of being holy? Love your neighbor as yourself.
If God chooses to make us holy, he is making us capable of loving our neighbor as ourself. We don't love in order to become holy, we love our neighbor because God has made us holy.
Holiness isn't about being pure from all sin, holiness is about loving your neighbor as yourself. The motivation to not sin is rooted in our desire to love our neighbor as ourself. Sin taints and ruins and corrupts our love. Sin is not what ultimately ruins love though - it's our unwillingness to confess the sin, to repent of the sin, our unwillingness to make amends for the sin - that is what what corrupts the love.
In ancient Israel God made the nation holy. And he set up a sacrificial system so that when the people would sin, they could make atonement for their sins and thus stay in the holy covenant. Sinning didn't kick them out of the holy relationship. Refusing to make the sacrifices was what led to their removal from the covenant. Death was the prescription for those who refused to live up to the holy status God had conferred on ancient Israel. God had a very special relationship with Israel, unlike any other nation - which is the whole point of God saying that the people were holy.
But now God has that relationship with the whole world - through Jesus Christ God has forgiven the sins of the whole world. He is calling all people to be holy - God has made it possible for everyone everywhere to repent of their sins, be made new in Jesus, and live by the Same Spirit. God makes people holy. And then he gives them the Same Spirit Jesus had to live and love in this world. This is how God will heal the nations and rescue sinners.
So, what keeps you from seeing yourself as holy, right now?
Do you want to be holy?