Friday, August 08, 2008

What is the Church? Holy...

We started last month talking about the Marks of the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. This month, let's talk about what holy means. Holiness is usually talked about in terms of how good or bad someone is. Someone is thought of as holy if they do good things, avoid bad, etc.

But this is not a Biblical definition of holy. The first time the word shows up, it's in regard to the Sabbath, a day set apart for rest, in Genesis 2:3. In Exodus 30:32, it refers to a special anointing oil that is not to be used for any ordinary purposes. And elsewhere in Exodus, it refers to places and furnishings in the Temple which are apart from ordinary use. Leviticus 10:10 finally defines it for us, when God says to Moses, “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean.” (ESV) Holiness in Scripture is defined by being different than the ordinary, being set apart from the common for God. Goodness does play a role in holiness, but goodness is in the service of being set apart to God, not the other way around. Especially when the word is so often used to refer to inanimate objects, it's not just about the presence of lack of sin.

But when God sets things apart, He does so for a purpose. Take the Levities. God sets them apart from Israel, but to serve Israel as it's spiritual leaders. And when Abraham's descendants were set apart, God said they would be a blessing to the nations. (Gen 12:3) Even the Temple furnishings I mentioned before, they weren't just set apart to look pretty, but to serve as a sign and witness to the people.

We just got back from the Celebrate Jesus mission trip, where in essence the 8 of us were set-apart for a purpose. We did not live like the rest of the world. For starters, we were sleeping in a church. And not during the sermon... :-) And we were doing other things that made us different than other people. We were going door-to-door, and standing outside stores, giving people something free, whether it be a gift, or an initiation, or a prayer. Who does that? Most folks didn't know what to do with us...they're used to stuff like that being followed by a catch, or a sales pitch. But instead, we just gave what we had away...even the party was free, and you didn't have to sit through a sermon to attend. We just wanted to show people God's kindness and love, which also comes with no strings attached.

Others participated while in the midst of normal life. But the teams were specifically set-apart to go out in ways the normal parishioners couldn't, or at times they couldn't, or with a single-mindedness they couldn't, because we had no worldly affairs to worry about for the week. We were set-apart from our normal lives to serve this single purpose.

This is the essence of holiness. Being set apart for a purpose. For service to God. For a mission. Holiness as a church is not total disengagement from the world, but rather separation from being identified with it, so that we can more closely identify with our heavenly Father. Remember, forward progress in holiness also means we are more like Him, which means there is also more of Him we can offer to the world. So that they can see that His love for them is different than other love, that His kindness is different than that amongst friends.

So who are we as the church? We are holy, called to be and do a little different than the world, so that they will know our God is not just one more hobby, not just one more story, but is Someone amazing and unique. Come, let us show the world together our Holy God.

1 comment:

Questing Parson said...

Excellent and challenging. Thanks.