Holy can sometimes have negative connotations, with accusations of being ‘holier than thou’ or a ‘holy Joe’ seeming to be about superiority, especially morally so. But in truth holiness is an excellent quality, mainly because that is how God is. So true holiness is about being dedicated to the service of God and trying to do things his ways.
This passage lays out the true characteristics of being holy.
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 (CEV)
Moral and Religious Laws
19 The Lord told Moses 2 to say to the community of Israel:
I am the Lord your God. I am holy, and you must be holy too!
9 When you harvest your grain, always leave some of it standing along the edges of your fields and don’t pick up what falls on the ground. 10 Don’t strip your grapevines clean or gather the grapes that fall off the vines. Leave them for the poor and for those foreigners who live among you. I am the Lord your God.
11 Do not steal or tell lies or cheat others.
12 Do not misuse my name by making promises you don’t intend to keep. I am the Lord your God.
13 Do not steal anything or cheat anyone, and don’t fail to pay your workers at the end of each day.
14 I am the Lord your God, and I command you not to make fun of the deaf or to cause a blind person to stumble.
15 Be fair, no matter who is on trial—don’t favor either the poor or the rich.
16 Don’t be a gossip, but never hesitate to speak up in court, especially if your testimony can save someone’s life.
17 Don’t hold grudges. On the other hand, it’s wrong not to correct someone who needs correcting. 18 Stop being angry and don’t try to take revenge. I am the Lord, and I command you to love others as much as you love yourself.
There is not one of these that does not make perfect sense. We would all nod and agree. Don’t take everything you can, leave something of your abundance for those who have nothing; don’t steal, lie or cheat; don’t make promises in God’s name or on his behalf that we have no intention of keeping; pay what you owe; don’t abuse those whose life is difficult enough; be fair and just, not being swayed by appearance; do not gossip; do tell the truth when you can; don’t hold grudges and don’t be on the lookout for ways to pay back what wrongs you perceive someone has done to you; and love – God, yourself and everyone – for that is the foundation that all the rest.
So why does it seem so difficult to do? I need to look after what I have, because you never know; that’s not really lying, or stealing or cheating….; it sounds good to make promises in God’s name, I feel better about them; if I can get away with paying a bit less; I don’t always notice the needs of others, it’s easier not to look that hard; I feel so more inclined to help those who look like me; but they hurt me so much. And love. Do I love myself? Am I comfortable enough with myself that I can love others, whoever, however, whenever?
you know how difficult some of this stuff is;
you know I struggle to love myself sometimes,
or all the time,
I am hurting,
I feel overlooked
I need to look after myself…
that is true for everyone else.
So in my mutuality,
my understanding of where they might be,
I answer your call
to live how you ask me.
I can’t do it alone,
but I long to be holy,
because you are
and that is what you ask of me
(with apologies for the same song 2 weeks running, but this is so the right song for this reading)