Milton Keynes is well known for its concrete cows. Cows in a field would make a new town look idyllic thought the architects. But would farmers keep some cows nearby? Never mind, we’ll make fake cows so it looks right. But concrete cows are not right. They are fake.
Moses had a similar problem. Beware of Holy Cows.
Scanning through Facebook posts yesterday I noticed this quote from a friend:
[A] clergy person told me today that I should not just be good, I should be holy.
I immediately felt irritated and for good reason. I am always suspicious when spiritual leaders tell followers that they need to be holy or ‘more holy’.
The reason for this is that for the last twenty or so years I have noticed a pattern relating to such pronouncements.
A very respected leader came to our church conference. He spoke passionately about holiness as a prelude for revival. He left us all certain that we were far from holy. In a way, it put a guilt trip on us all. If only we could pursue holiness like the man who taught us…
Two months later that man was arrested for paedophile offences.
Another man came and repeatedly told us we were unworthy and needed to pursue holiness. He often left good people feeling guilty and unworthy.
He was arrested and jailed for fraud.
These are two examples but I know of many more.
According to Wikipedia:
David Yungi Cho is a Korean Christian minister. He is Senior Pastor and founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church the world’s largest congregation with a claimed membership of 830,000 (as of 2007).
I have often heard him speak on holiness.
In February 2014, he was convicted for tax evasion, given a 3-year suspended prison sentence, and fined the equivalent of almost US$5 million.
The call to holiness is sometimes a tool of manipulation. If you can make a group of people feel guilty and unworthy, you can often get them to do things they would not normally do, in order to ‘prove themselves’. Usually this involves them giving money or time to further the manipulators ends.
So here’s a couple of thoughts on holiness.
– dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.
First of all, every human being is created in the image of God. That is quite a holy thing in my book. In that sense it is not what we do but who we are that makes us holy. When Jesus was accused by the ‘holier-than-thou-gang’, he didn’t big himself up so much as include us all as sons and daughters of God.
Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods’, to whom the word of God came – and the Scripture cannot be broken – what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?’ John 10:34-36
In spiritual terms, it is by seeking God that we come to share in his holiness. His Spirit is the Holy Spirit, so when we join ourselves to him we become one with his holiness.
‘But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.’ 1 Corinthians 6:17
Some people think that holiness is wearing spotless clothes, going to a lot of church meetings and events, and stinging your enemies with a condemning Bible verse here and there. It isn’t. It soooo isn’t that!
Jesus was a real man. He hiked up mountains, went fishing, visited the poor, and spoke about being really alive.
The least, the last, and the lost all found a welcome from Jesus. He went to parties and dinners, and he was the life and soul of the party. He talked about all the stuff we talk about.
He spoke about children and fathers, money and debt, fishing, living and dying, marriage and divorce, childbirth, farming and the weather, governments and corruption, crime and punishment, telling the truth and lying, sex and adultery, food and wine, tax and fairness, work and rest, jewellery and investments, love and hate, climate change, earthquakes, famines and wars, Friends, Neighbours … Home and Away.
He talked about all the things we are still talking about today. And then he staggered the men and women he hung out with, in a single sentence.
‘If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’
Living in the real nitty-gritty of life, with real ordinary people, laughing with those who laugh and weeping with those who weep – that is real holiness.
Pursuing God, reflecting on life, loving others, enjoying a sunset, rejoicing in nature, trying to make the world a little happier for someone else – that is real holiness.
Removing great burdens of guilt and shame from people’s backs – that is true holiness.
Being a complete Pharisee and telling others they don’t quite measure up to God’s expectations – that’s the work of the devil... because that does not bring life, it brings death and depression.
I think Ghandi said it best, ‘I would have become a Christian until I met one.’
Here endeth the lesson…
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