"whimsical holiness"

Having already talked about sin this week, it makes sense to also talk about holiness. 

How do you define holiness? What makes a person holy?

It’s easy to think of practices of spirituality and devotion - prayer, Bible reading, piety, etc... - to describe our holiness. The more “spiritual” we are, the less sinful we are and the more holy we become. As our friends at Wikipedia suggest, holiness is primarily a “state of being.”

For Christians, one of the spiritual practices to express our holiness is worship. Regular corporate gatherings to sing, pray and read scripture together are integral to a holy life. This is a good thing. But I recently read a passage on worship that’s caused me to reflect on worship and holiness:

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Heb. 13:15-16 NIV)

I’ve heard the first part many times in support of contemporary worship services and many of the psalms echo this. But I was reminded that the “sacrifice of praise” is described in both verses. Sure, we worship with our mouths, but we also worship with our actions towards others - “do good...share with others...”

Speaking of holiness, then, I think we need to apply the implications of this passage from Hebrews. Holiness can’t be limited to some sort of mystical connection with the divine, though it no doubt will include that. A life of holiness is a connection with God and others. I seem to remember Jesus had a few (!!!) things to say about that.

Unfortunately Christians - even “holy” ones - don’t have the best track record in the “loving others” part of holiness. Addressing the problem of exclusion for Christians - how we treat those who aren’t “holy” - Hugh Halter suggests “whimsical holiness” as a way to open ourselves up to others, even those who are different than ourselves. He queries, “What if whimsical holiness is simply ‘being like Jesus...with those Jesus would have been with?’ How might this definition of holiness change the way we view people and live our lives?”

"Whimsy" - Laurel Latto
“Whimsy,” Halter suggests, “allows you to be with people regardless of their angle of life without casting any judgment their way...Loving the person doesn’t mean you’re condoning their behavior. It just means you’ll be a trusted friend.” (The Tangible Kingdom). Adopting whimsy in our lives calls us to stop taking some things in life so seriously, and open ourselves up to the possibility of friendship in unexpected places.

I like that. Whimsy together with holiness leads to friendship and openness in navigating the unpredictable nature of interaction with others. Holiness, along these lines, is as much a state of being as it is a state of relationship - to God and to others.

May we all experience a little whimsical holiness in our lives with one another.


Bob said...

If God is holy, and also God is defined as love, perhaps we should consider holiness the end result of love. If we were to love perfectly, we would indeed reflect God's holiness, and would reflect the very definition of God. If we seek Holiness directly we end up with all sorts of distortions. If we seek love, we will find holiness.

David Warkentin said...

Yes Bob, I like this distinction, especially if love is considered in relational terms - holiness is relational!

Also, we tend to forget that our identity as "holy" people is God's gift to us, reflecting his love, and not something we attain to. I think Col. 3:12-14 gets at this love and holiness in relational terms.

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