Holy means “set apart.” It is a word used of God’s character. He is not like us, special, perfect. Yet the crazy thing is that God calls those who choose to follow Him – holy. In Paul’s greeting to the church at Corinth we find these words which very much apply to us,
“I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)
Did you catch the part about all people everywhere who call on the name of Jesus? The Scripture says they have been made holy by means of Christ Jesus. So many times that is not how I see myself. I feel lazy when I don’t get everything done on my to-do list. Discouragement can overtake me for no good reason at all. Sometimes I look to people or possessions for validation. On any given day I can be tempted to find my identity in anything from my pant size to my children’s behavior. These last few days I’ve been in a funk, and I’m not really sure why. Rather than celebrate the wonderful things going on in life, I want to crawl under the covers and stay there. I don’t feel holy. Yet Christ says that I am.
So the question for me and for you is which posture will we claim today? Will we find our identity in
- how we feel,
- what we’ve accomplished,
- our appearance,
- how others view us,
- or what Christ says about us?
Paul wanted so intensely for the Corinthians to remember their holy identity that he mentioned Christ’s name repeatedly. In fact in the opening of his letter he said Christ’s name nine times in nine verses! He made it clear that they were set apart and special not because of their wealth, talents, or feelings but because of Christ’s death on the cross.
No grades of holiness exist. Some people aren’t “kind of holy” and others are “super holy.” If you are a believer, then you are holy through the blood of Christ—period. Holiness isn’t something we attain. Christ imputed it to us through His sacrifice on the cross.
While we may disagree on many things within the Christian community, the lens we should view one another through is holiness. We and our brothers and sisters in Christ are holy because Jesus Christ set us apart through His shed blood. He paid the highest price so that we could be called holy. Consider what impact that embracing this identity could have on our words, actions, and prayers toward those with whom we are struggling to get along.
Paul began his letter to the church at Corinth with a greeting and an emphasis on our shared identity in Christ to set the tone for the sixteen chapters of admonition and encouragement that followed. He also stressed his authority as an apostle because many in the church were rejecting his leadership. How could Paul be so positive about a church full of divisions? He could have let their struggles become a reason to write them off and focus on other churches he had planted that didn’t seem as problematic. Instead, he turned his attention to the character of God. He recognized what commentator Gordon Fee has so beautifully expressed: “To delight in God for his working in the lives of others, even in the lives of those with whom we feel compelled to disagree, is sure evidence of our own awareness of being the recipients of God’s mercies.”
When the human flaws of our churches are exposed, I pray we will see other believers for who they really are—struggling sinners like us whom Christ has declared holy. Then we will be able to celebrate one another’s strengths before beginning to work out our disagreements.