“Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’" 1 Peter 1:16
I wrote this article and shared it with you three years ago. I was reading it in preparation for this week’s message and thought I should share it with you again. I will tell you why at the end.
Holy! What does it mean to be holy? Simply put, to be holy means to be set apart. Scripture is full of a variety of people and objects that were made holy. They were set apart for a specific and special purpose. Ultimately, the term holy points to God as the one who is qualitatively different or set apart from all of creation. The Creator is holy and set apart from all that has been created. Theologians and philosophers refer to God as the “holy other” and also the “wholly other” that is set apart from creation. This is who God is.
Then how are we to apply this verse in 1 Peter that we are to be “holy, as (God) is holy.”? A secondary understanding of what it means to be holy is that God, as the holy other/creator, will set apart
someone or something for a special purpose. God, who is holy, sets apart believers for the purpose of spreading God’s love for humanity. We are set apart for the purpose of loving God and loving our neighbor. We are purposed, set apart, to be wholly devoted to sharing God’s love with the world in which we live and in which God created. We are able to do this because of God’s grace through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ died to give us purity and freedom from sin. We strive to live in that freedom and share the hope that it brings to a broken world. We are a major part of God’s redemptive work in humanity. We are to be people who are set apart for the purposes of God.
So what does this set apartness look like? What does it look like to be holy? We need to look at Christ as the example of how to live a holy life. It means entering into the everyday places of life and bringing the light of God’s love. It means being set apart to go to people who are far from God, broken, battered, and bruised for the purpose of helping them experience God’s grace. It means loving your neighbor in any way you can and as often as you can. The call to be set apart is the call to love like Jesus loves. This is what it means to be holy.
The key to being holy is a longing to be holy. This Sunday we will be talking about the longing of John Wesley, and others in his day, to be holy—to be set apart that God might use them for God’s purposes. In the lines of the Wesley Covenant Prayer (written much later in his life), John Wesley expressed holiness this way, “I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you, praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service. And now, O wonderful and holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it.” This should be the longing of our heart, to be holy as God is holy.
You see this week we will be learning from James that a life of joy is a life of humility. Humility is the key to holiness as we realize that without God we are nothing and with God nothing is impossible. In order to be holy we need God. John Wesley knew this and his humility led to the writing of perhaps his best known prayer. I look forward to sharing this important message with you and I can’t wait to see you in church this Sunday.