Wholeness and Holiness
The meanings of words are vital if we are to correctly understand a sentence. Unfortunately, when words are translated from one language to another, they sometimes loose something of their meaning, and other times something is added to the definition that was not intended in its original form. The word ‘holy’ is one such word.
Often the word holy is invested with a particular moral behaviour, as if holiness is a measure of morality. Good behaviour is, to be sure, connected with holiness, but good behaviour does not create holiness – it’s actually the other way around – holiness provokes good behaviour. Unfortunately, holiness has had this unintended additive that has served to lead us away from the original intent of the word.
The word, ‘holy,’ means something like separated, consecrated or set apart. Holy things are differentiated from other things, making them special and particular. The only one who has the capacity to confer holiness is God himself. We cannot make ourselves holy. However, we are called to act in line with the truth of the holiness that God has conferred upon us.
Peter writes to the churches of Asia Minor, “As obedient Children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “be holy for I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1: 15-16). Put in other words it could read something like this: “As privileged children who have submitted to their unique calling, do not live as if you were still ignorant of the truth about exactly who you are. Just as he who called you is unlike all the other so-called gods of the pagans, so we ought to act is harmony with the privileged and unique status we have in relation to God.” That is a loose translation, but it captures the essential meaning I believe.
Being connected to God through his calling and justification is what makes us holy, and the realisation of these things leads to an appropriate response. Holiness frees us to live in a way that correlates with our status as children of God and fills us with gratitude and a desire to please God and be obedient to him.
Thus, we can grow into holiness, but we cannot become more holy than we already are anymore than you can become more of a son or daughter to your parents. You can grow into your sonship or daughterhood, but you are no more or less a child. We are as loved, as forgiven, as saved, as justified, as called and as holy as we will ever be. But knowing that frees us to become what we are.