By Larry White
"Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." (Heb.12:14)
As Christians, we are to pursue holiness. Holiness defined from the original Greek is hagios, [άγιος] = holy:
1. revered, worthy of veneration as God is in his perfection.
2. set apart for God, to be exclusively his, separate from the world.
3. in a moral sense, pure, sinless, upright, uncorrupted.
There are two aspects to holiness; one negative and one positive.
Negative: by that I do not mean dark and mean, but rather like a magnetic poll is negative, opposite from the world, separate from the world's life style, their mind and behavior. You can view it as alien to the world because holiness is not produced by the world, it is foreign to it. Jesus said to the evil Pharisees, "You are from beneath, I am from above. You are of this world. I am not of this world" Therefore those who are holy to Him are also treated like aliens. "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (Jno. 8:23; 15:19)
Positive: would be living in the light of the truth in all honesty. Nothing is sought for yourself but to be true and real. It is being God's own personal possession with the excitement and comfort of being so. It is positive in that it is not overcome by the world. Holiness is an energetic force of mind, a radiant light of the spirit that at the same time is loving and accepting. Like God's holiness it will be manifest in us as love, which is expressed in truthfulness, goodness, justice and mercy, all the characteristics of righteousness, doing what is right.
Here's a personal illustration from my experience.
When I first became a Christian, I was totally committed to Christ (and still am). I had given him my life. That was my "good confession before many witnesses". I was in the Navy at the time in early April, 1969 and in order to be an authentic Christian while in the military, I took an uncompromising attitude in my life. I was the one who knew the truth - that lived in reality, to be authentic and live in truth there was no compromise in my worldview. Yet there was no belligerence in that stance either. In love, I was honestly seeking to live like Jesus lived and so if you wanted to hang out with me, then you had to walk in my reality, not the world's. I had nothing for which to be ashamed, therefore I despised the shaming from others and carried on walking in the light that I knew. In the church I preached lessons on living that way - living like you were in the presence of God 24/7, just like Jesus did - because we are in his presence 24/7. No matter where you are, no matter who you're with - we should be practicing the presence of God; living as the authentic children of God, what John called "walking in the light." (1Jno. 1:5-7). Coincidentally, there was at that time a preacher there who was emphasizing total commitment to Christ and not compromising with the world. I felt like I fit in quite well with the mind of all those around me. Yet teaching it and practicing it are sometimes two different things.
After I was discharged from the Navy I shared an apartment with another Christian in the church who was an easy going man, who seemed to take a detached observational view of life in the world but participated all the same, as much as his faith would allow; you know, being reasonable and compromising with societal norms - blending in; not rocking the boat, keeping quiet when confronted with something sinful or evil. This was a common attitude of the young people in the church in a neighboring town. They were stifled and subdued when at a church function as if they had to reign in their impulses lest someone betray their worldliness. On the other hand young people in my congregation were faithful and sincere and willing to step out to a new level. You could tell they loved the Lord and each other. They were open and happy and loving. They had no fear and nothing to hide. There was no subduing their bright lights.
Years later my former roommate told me that he had viewed me as uncompromising and gave me an angry look of disapproval. I thought, "But I was just being honest with the truth that I knew." That made me realize that not compromising is an aspect of holiness. "Either make the tree good and its fruit good or make the tree bad and its fruit bad." (Mt. 12:33) Being pure in heart would necessitate a rejection of anything impure. Being of truth would require a rejection of all deceit, guile and hypocrisy. Being separate from the world and devoted to God like Jesus was, is to take an uncompromising stance in the truth (reality) and face the world with it. The world has its own version of reality that centers around our egotistical selves. To reject the existence of a personal God is to place oneself at the center of the universe. Even New Age religions who think that they, along with everyone else are God, have made him impersonal and are essentially doing the same thing. They want to be the deity, when they actually cannot be, because we were created. We are creatures, not the creator. Most people are victims of this ego-driven deceit.
Eph. 4: 17-24
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard him and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the lusts of the deceit and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
The scriptures talk about two different systems at war in the world. The Deceit and the Truth. The mode of the world is the Deceit and is characterized by lusts, i.e. selfish, greedy desires, not born of love. The other mode is from God and is the light of Truth which is characterized by holiness and righteousness and is expressed in love.
Jesus came to polarize the world. He sets us at variance with everyone that is of the world, even our closest loved ones.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household." (Mt. 10:34-36)
Holiness is being alien to the world in kindness, yet not partaking of their mind, attitude or paradigm against God. Don't be surprised at their fear or hatred of you or their mean and vicious reactions toward you. Our Father gets it all the time.
"But now having been set free from Sin, and having become servants of God, you have your fruit leading to holiness, and the end result, everlasting life." (Rom. 6:22) When we come to Jesus Christ for cleansing and salvation, he sanctifies us, makes us holy. Holiness makes us separate from the world, as being not of this world i.e. not a product of this world system. We belong to God which is the only other alternative, being of God in a state of life; having the light of life - being able to see because you live in the spirit and therefore, being one with God the father in perception, action and will. Being of love, knowing him and sharing in his life, is everlasting life.