“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” (I Peter 1:15)
Certain criteria appear to be altogether unattainable. This charge, perhaps more than any other, stands at the top of such a list: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Why would our Heavenly Father be so demanding? From the outset, knowing we are destined for failure, we rationalize that it is highly improbable we could ever succeed at this unreasonable request. We forfeit without even trying.
It is not hard to imagine why the Lord put this standard in place. As mere humans we scrub dishes, soap hands, and wash clothes. We recoil from pressing our lips against a dirty glass or purchasing a soiled garment. We sanitize and deodorize our day-to-day existence. Why then would we suppose that a Holy God would want to reside in impure hearts or embrace our unholy ways?
God’s call for us to be holy does not mean he wants us to master perfection in order to impress others. He is not interested in us earning brownie points to win his favor. Spiritual snobbery is not a hallmark he designed for any of us. Neither is his call to holiness a hurdle he places in our path like a harsh tyrant intent on our demise.
Rather, with the benevolence of a gracious Father, God’s call for us to strive for holiness is an invitation to participate with him in developing a heart he intended all along. He longs for us to experience a deeper, purer relationship with him. He desires for us to commune with him with unencumbered hearts, free from barriers that distance us from him. In essence he says, “You can become holy. I have provided the way for you to be holy because I am holy and I am living within you. I have given you the Holy Spirit to assist you. You have my Holy Word with everything you need to develop a life of holiness.”
God tells us throughout his Word that we represent him as his ambassadors, and we should reflect his character. In a myriad of ways he reinforces this truth: Be forgiving for I am a Forgiving God; be loving for I am Loving; be merciful for I am Merciful. A lifestyle marked by holiness is completely consistent with every one of his decrees.
Truthfully, he has the right to make such a demand since we do not belong to ourselves. He purchased us with the life of his beloved Son. He redeemed us from the slavery of sin and ransomed us “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (I Peter 1:18-19).
We serve a Holy Righteous God. As his beloved children, may our lives imitate our Father.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell
Photo: Paul Westel