Please enjoy our guest post by Erica Baker, a freelance faith-based writer.
Last month, I took the dive into the daunting book of Leviticus, which details God’s elaborate law for the Israelites. Amidst the scrupulous rules and their corresponding punishments, throughout the book, God repeats His staggering vision behind it all:
I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
There is in our culture a deep aversion to words like “holy.” The term rings with religiosity, and many dismiss it as an archaic concept. Nevertheless, it frequently appears in the Old Testament, and it’s worth our attention.
So what do you think of when you think of “holy?”
I think of a whiteness so white it sparkles.
I think of a pure, piercing light beaming down from heaven.
I think of the luminescent elven race in Lord of the Rings.
But ultimately, I think of God Himself- a perfect and sinless being.
I’ve heard many times that Christ’s blood has made me holy. But in all honesty, I’ve never connected with that truth. Part of me feels like the term should be reserved for God alone. If I’m considered holy in the heavenly realm by some strange spiritual standard, that’s great. But that has little bearing on my day to day life. I am not perfect, and I never will be. For this reason, I never thought of myself as “holy,” nor did I ever really care to.
But Exodus 3 was a game-changer for me:
4When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from within the bush, “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am,” he answered. 5“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” - Exodus 3:4-5
As you may know, this is a snippet from a much larger story which marks the birth of the exodus narrative. In short, Moses encounters God in the form of a burning bush. Then God entrusts Moses with the epochal task of commanding Pharoah to free the Israelites, and so the odyssey begins.
But I want to hone in on a fine point: God commands Moses to remove his shoes because the ground beneath his feet is holy.
Did you catch that? The ground is holy. So does that mean the ground is perfect and sinless? That wouldn’t make much sense. Clearly, “holy” here doesn’t align with my original concept of it.
The Hebrew word for “holy,” used in this passage and throughout the Old Testament, is “kadosh.” And our interpretation inadequately captures the word’s full connotation. “Kadosh” means set apart, special, different from the rest.
Now that makes more sense. The ground was only “holy,” or “kadosh,” because God had set it apart for a special purpose. The same goes for the Israelites in Leviticus. God gave them those rigid rules because he wanted them to be set apart from the rest of the world. He wanted them to act and live differently. He wanted them to be radical reformers of history. And He wants the same for us.
In his first epistle, Peter says this:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. - 1 Peter 2:9
This line echoes Exodus 19:6, in which God reveals His plan for the Israelites:
“You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Here Peter reiterates an Old Testament command, thus illustrating that we too are called to be the same kind of “holy” or “kadosh” as the Israelites. We too are set apart for God’s purposes. In Peter’s words, we too are “chosen,” and “special.”
But being chosen and special doesn’t just mean that we get to feel good about ourselves. It means that we’re held to a higher standard.
So what does it mean to really live out our status as “kadosh?”
- It means we defy cultural norms. (Romans 12:2)
- It means we clash with the world, and that’s okay. (John 15:19)
- It means we live with zeal. (Titus 2:4)
- It means we’re fiercely devoted to good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
- It means we live in the Spirit, not in the flesh. (Romans 8:9)
- It means we examine our lives and are willing to make changes if need be. (Romans 6:6)
It’s not that God wants us to be intentionally subversive and rabble-rousing. It’s just that we need to be different, and we can expect some friction as a natural consequence of our differences.
Not everyone will like your views on sexuality, and that’s okay. Not everyone will understand why you made that crazy, Spirit-led decision, and that’s okay. Not everyone will understand why you’re so generous with your money, and that’s okay.
The reality is that when you have the Creator of the universe living inside of you, you don’t get to be normal. This fact should enthrall us when we begin to comprehend the magnitude of His power within us.
You and I have received a lofty call to a life of gritty nonconformity. This, my friends, is holiness. It is far more beautiful (not to mention, far more attainable) than perfection.
So cheers to never being perfect, and forever being holy.