The word “holy” is a lot like a middle school student wearing a fedora, playing a harmonica: MISUNDERSTOOD. Holiness is also one of those words that we can use so often, but not truly be able to define. Make no mistake - we want a Holy God.
Here are some common ways I’ve misunderstood the word HOLY.
- Holy = Boring
- Holy = Inaccessible
- Holy = Hard
- Holy = Over-religious
- Holy = Frustrating
The bible teaches that God’s defining characteristic is Holiness. Here is the great danger - If don’t understand Holiness, we don’t understand God. If we don’t love Holiness, we don’t fully love God.
So, what does this word really mean?
1 Peter 1:16 - “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
I’ve been discouraged by this verse so many times. I saw it as impossible standard that I couldn’t live up to, rather than one of life’s most gracious and incredible invitations.
The Greek word for Holy is hagios. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says this particular word, “fundamentally signifies ‘separated.’”
“Okay, so holy doesn’t mean self-righteous. It means separated. What does that mean for us?”
Why would the chief characteristic of God have to do with being “separated?” It seems like the most logical question would be, “What is He separated from?”
1 John 1:5 tells us that God IS light, and totally separated from darkness. This is a perfect picture of His Holiness. This world is filled with a ton of darkness. I recently read in the news about a man charged with the murder of a baby. I read about the Taliban targeting a young teenager, and shooting her at point blank for her insistence to be educated. I see pain, heart ache, confusion, and chaos everywhere I look. I see hopeless and loneliness. Here is the good news. God is 100% SEPARATE from all of that mess. In God, there is no darkness. Think about that for a second.
What does it mean for God to be Holy? It means that in Him, there is a perfect place away from the horrible junk we have to deal with - all of sin’s side effects. In God, we have hope, life, light, fulfillment, and joy. There is no other place we can find it. Why? Because everywhere else there is darkness. In God, there is NO darkness. Because He is Holy.
God doesn’t call us to be holy because He is strict. He calls us to be holy because He is kind. He has invited us to join Him in the separation from death and decay. He sent Jesus to pay our price, rise again, and pave the way for us to come to Him. He is separate, yet He invites us.
The fact that God would invite us to be “holy as He is holy” is wholly unbelievable.
So be Holy. Not just because you should, but because you can.