Tag Archives: holiness

Do The Right Thing

Generally people go through life trying and wanting to do the right thing.  We do not want to be at odds with others, the community, the law – we want to get life right.

Most of what God asks of us can be summed up as ‘Doing the right thing’.  I guess the difficulty is knowing what the ‘right thing’ is!

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 (CEV)

Moral and Religious Laws

19 The Lord told Moses to say to the community of Israel:

I am the Lord your God. I am holy, and you must be holy too!

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.

God asks us to be holy, as he is.  That sounds very scary – and difficult.  For I am not God,  I have lots of human tendencies that make being holy very difficult.

In its widest sense, being holy means being dedicated to the service of God.  Perhaps that feels more attainable.  To work towards God’s ways and his work.

Ultimately what God asks of us is to live in his values, standards and way of love.  Here he adds some specific pointers to those ways: don’t gossip, speak up for someone in trouble, don’t hold grudges, stop being angry, don’t take revenge, love others and love yourself.  I don’t know which one of those you have most trouble with, or which you most need to hear today.  But they are all what God asks and requires of us.  These things are doing the right thing.  They are God’s ways.

Can they become my ways too?

Lord, I long to be holy,
to live in your ways,
to love as you love,
to stand up for right,
to be angry at the right things,
to be dedicated to you.
Give me your strength
to live your ways
I pray

Being Holy

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 to say to the community of Israel:

I am the Lord your God. I am holy, and you must be holy too!

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?

Lord,
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
and misunderstood,
I need to look after myself…

…yet,
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

My one desire is to be holy

(with apologies for the same song 2 weeks running, but this is so the right song for this reading)

Book Review: Struggling to be Holy – Judy Hirst

Struggling to Be Holy

This is a book on living life, and the realities of it, especially the struggles of day-to-day Christian living.  What it focusses on are

the threads of holiness which is rooted in our everyday experience (from the blurb)

The six reflections are entitled Hiding from God, Dealing with our Desires, The Gifts of Forgiveness, Paying Attention, Friendship, and Success and Failure.

The illustrations are good, from real life, so very easy to hang on to.  I found it all very sensible and practical – and helpful.  Judy Hirst clearly deals in real people.

I won’t go through the reflections one by one, but just highlight three points.

Reflection 2 is called

Dealing with Our Desires.

We are reminded that our desires are personal to each one of us, they are things that matter.  Our desires can energize us, whether accepted or denied, so we need to understand their substance (p45).

I want…

Desire is powerful and overwhelming (p46).  They show us what we truly yearn.  Which may be to counter not feeling ‘good enough’, or a lack of security, or a need to be loved (p47).  Whatever we discover the root of our desires to be,

If we keep paying attention to our desires rather than suppressing them, or simply indulging them, then we will begin to understand ourselves better.

Understand that we are made in the image of God who knows desire and desires us! (p47)

Our longing is actually to turn us to God, not away.

Reflection focusses on

The Gifts of Forgiveness

Hirst reminds me of part of my story.  She uses the analogy of a box, I have used a carpet, but the idea is the same. “Stuff” happens, and when we can’t face it we bury it, and one day we can no longer contain it and it overwhelms us.  Whether our problem with the box is that we ignore it, or are fixated on it, it can take over our life.  But we have to face the contents if we are to move on.  Not to keep raking them over, but to know the truth of them, and deal with it.

Reflection 6 looks at

Success and Failure.

Talking about Peter, Hirst reflects on his qualification to share the ministry of the ‘failed’ Messiah,

Peter did fail big time, but his failure did not cause him to doubt God, or to reject God, or blame God.  Rather his failure led him to learn the extent of God’s love for him and the extent of his own weakness (p117)

Who of us haven’t failed?  And yet that failure need not distance us from God, but rather open up the possibilities of what God can do in us.  If we are so sure of ourself and our own abilities, there is no room for God.  When we know how far we can go, we have to leave space for him to work.

Knowing the depth of our failures, can also in its turn make us more use.

It is always those who have known ‘forgiven failure’ to whom people turn in need.  Their wounded vulnerability makes them attractive companions on life’s journey (p117)

To have known and touched failure opens us up as someone human, who knows where things can go, who cannot see the speck in their fellow travellers eye, because they know of the plank in their own (Matthew 7:3).  That makes for someone who others trust will accept them, and journey together with compassion.  For we don’t stay in failure, we move on – with God – the God of new life.

…God takes our failure into Christ, and we are part of God’s work in creation (p119)

But we remain a work as yet unfinished.

The book concludes with a poem from Ann Lewin

God’s work of art.

That’s me?

Then beauty must lie

In the eye of the

Beholder.

I feel more like

One of those statues

Michelangelo left

Half emerging

From the marble block;

Full of potential

On the verge of life,

But prisoned still

By circumstance and

Fear.

Yet part of me is free –

And yet you are still creating,

Bringing to life

The promise that is there.

Sometimes by

Hammer blows

Which jar my being,

Sometimes by

Tender strokes half felt

Which waken me to

Life.

Go on Lord.

Love me into wholeness.

Set me free

To share with you

In your creative joy;

To laugh with you

At your delight

In me,

Your work of art

I’ll leave you to read the book for yourself