Was the title of this post a turnoff? That question isn’t meant to be in-your-face. It’s just an honest question. Holiness is not a popular word. It’s practically fallen out of our vocabularies. When uttered, it now almost has a pejorative hue to it. It sounds stuffy. It sounds Victorian. It sounds like something that strips the relevance right out of Christianity. If someone were to call you or me holy, would we recoil because it isn’t true, or because it makes us sound flat-out irrelevant? It’s an easy question to gloss over without any true introspection. Do we avoid the word holiness because it is condemning or because it is seen as a liability or hindrance?
We don’t pray that God would make us holy anymore. We ask God to make us “Christ-like.” We ask God to pry our clutching fingers from the sin we love. We ask God for wisdom and guidance. But we don’t ask God for holiness. But isn’t praying for Christ-likeness the same as praying for holiness? Biblically, yes. But American Christianity is enamored with the idea that you can be Christ-like and not be set apart. It’s bent on trying to prove that you can listen to the music that glorifies the ungodly, and watch the peeping-tom movies, and pepper your speech with innuendo for humor’s sake and still be “Christ-like.” Throughout church history, that wasn’t considered relevance. That was considered irrelevance. What good was a Christian who looked like the world?
Our culture detests anything holy. The great American motto is: “Don’t rock the boat.” We don’t care who you are, what you do, or what you believe so long as you look like everybody else. And yet true, authentic Christ-likeness means to be different. How did the Romans know who to toss to the lions? God’s holy people couldn’t blend in. How did the Roman Catholic Church know who to burn at the stake? The people who were rocking the boat. The world is always unholy. Therefore the world’s culture will always be unholy. Being Christ-like means being set apart. It means rocking the boat.
I think it is undeniable that our generation, our Christian culture, is horrified to call something sinful that really isn’t sinful. And I think we really don’t care about compromising holiness because we consider looking like Bob Jones or Pensacola to be a far greater sin than “crude jesting” or “filthy talk” or “walking in darkness.” Christian witness isn’t destroyed by looking different than the world. It’s destroyed by looking just the same as everybody else. What unbeliever wants a Savior that will change them into what they already are?
So when we pray for Christ-likeness, are we praying for holiness? Are we praying that God would set us apart and make us look different than the world and culture around us? If we are, then we’ll suffer for it. Satan will not tolerate those who do not participate in his culture of wickedness. And sadly, many Christians respond to holiness by turning their weapons upon their brothers and sisters whose lives stand in contrast to their own lack of holiness. Living a holy life is the same as painting a bull’s-eye right over your heart. Suffering is sure. But then again, Jesus told us it would be this way. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage,; I have overcome the world…For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. ( John 16:33…Mark 8:35…Matthew 5:8 )