Holiness--"A People Set Apart"


1 Peter 2:9-10

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;

10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Deuteronomy 14:2

For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

Holiness. Santification. The call to be apart. In the second reading, in the midst of an array of laws and rules, God pauses for a moment to say why He is granting the gift of the law. And that is something we often forget--the laws of the people of Israel were not arbitrary regulations imposed by an arbitrary God on all of creation. Rather they were a circlet of love, a way of marking His bride for all of time. These laws were a definition, a declaration of His concern and His abiding love. So too, the fulfillment of all laws is a sign for all time of His deep and abiding love. By this fulfillment of law, we are called apart. We are to stand as a chosen people, the somewhat bedraggled bride of the most high. But by His love we are made worthy of love and restored to what we once were.

Holiness is a call to be apart from the people around us. Not apart as in unconcerned or uncaring, but apart as in being distant from their practices. To take another biblical metaphor--modern society is the Canaanites amongst whom we must not marry. Indeed, we are called to destroy them down to the last woman, child, and animal. No, not kill them, not wreak violence upon them except the violence of God's all encompassing love. We are called to break down their society, to demolish the altars of the Molochs and the Baals. To lay the places of their idols to waste.

How do we do this? Holiness. We destroy the molochs and the baals when we refuse to embrace them. We destroy Canaan when we are the people of the Land of Milk and Honey.

I have been reminded twice recently of St. Teresa's famous statement, "Lord, save me from sour-faced saints." If we live our lives as though under restrictive laws and go about with doom and gloom and no hope for sinners on our lips, we will entice no one to live as children of the Most High. No, our proof is to be children of light and joy--in the midst of our trials to love and bring love. In the days of darkness to be a light. Can we be a light if we are in darkness ourselves? Can we light the world if we are of it?

This is what holiness calls us to--separation of kind. We do not give back to the world what it has come to expect. We do not return insult for insult, injury for injury, complaint for complaint. We imitate our Master who endured scourging, and crowning, and spitting, and crowing, and insult, and pain, and suffering, and even relentless, long enduring death, only to rise again and to give life and hope to the whole world. We are His brothers and sisters. We are heirs of the kingdom, and the kingdom is not this present darkness, but the light of life and truth, Jesus Christ.

Holiness calls us apart, not to be isolated and disapproving, but to be of service. A lamp that is only inches from the ground doesn't do much to show the way--but one that is raised up high can spread a pool of light in which many can gather and the journey can begin-- from lesser light to lesser light, until finally all the light is gathered into the one Light, the source of all light, hope, and warmth. As Holy People, God gives us the task of lighting the way for all of those in darkness. To do this, we must be light in that darkness. We will stand apart. We will be peculiar. That is our gift and our privilege.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on November 15, 2005 8:02 AM.

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