What Is a Holy Life?
“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:15 ). “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” ( 1 Peter 2:11). “Do not love the world or anything in the world” (1 John 2:15). These verses have been used throughout the history of Christendom by sincere religious folk to mislead generations on what it means to live a Christian life. These verses have been used to build monasteries to avoid contact with the world. They have been used to isolate Christian communities. They have been used to keep Christians from using electricity, driving cars, using modern appliances, and wearing modern or fashionable clothing. They have been used to keep Christians from using lipstick, makeup, or wearing jewelry. They have been used to keep Christians from attending the movies, sporting events, and dances.However, God did not intend for these verses to be applied in such ways.
John Fischer wrote Real Christians Don’t Dance in 1988. It is a satirical title and work. The book was written to help Christians escape the trivial pursuits of false holiness. In the opening chapter, he told of his stand for Christ in the fifth grade. Do you know what stand that he took for Christ in that fifth grade year? Each week he carried a note from his parents excusing him from social dancing during the gym and recreation session when it was taught. He said his parents and his church compared his stand to Daniel in Babylon.
Think about it — in the fifth grade the Christian community taught John Fischer that being a Christian meant that you could not learn to dance with the other children. Fischer wrote: “So this is it? This is what is comes down to: real Christians don’t dance? Moses parted the water for this? Rahab tucked away the spies for this? Jael drove a tent peg into the head of Sisera for this? Jesus died and rose again, martyrs were sawn in two, and the church has prevailed for almost two thousand years against the gates of hell so that Christians today can live out this ever important testimony to the waiting and watching world: real Christians don’t dance.”
This view of individual holiness has caused Christians to live hesitant and dull lives. Somehow we have come to think that holiness is limited to an affinity for prayer and Bible study. However, there are things in God’s creation that we should love with a passion: music, the mountains, fishing, concerts, games, physical exercise, food, dancing, plays, literature, marriage, having children, business, teaching, banking, school, traveling, the beach, friends, astronomy, biology — the list is endless.
So what then is true holiness? Jesus said it best. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself … all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt 22:37–40). All the Law and all the prophets are summed up in these two commandments; thus, our lives, our holiness, can be summed up in those two commandments.
Loving God first in my life, means that in everything I am doing I love Him first. I see and hear this world through His eyes and His ears and with His heart. We have completely lost what that means as Christians. When we get home we will discover that we did not love His creation nearly as much as we should have.
The unholy life approaches all of these things with “me, myself, and I” at the center. Jesus was saying that God belongs at the center of whatever we are doing. We, as sinners, tend to put the thing itself — or ourselves — at the center.
George Orwell described the emptiness of self-centered, unholy living in a story he told in one of his essays. He described a wasp that was sucking jam from his plate. Orwell cut the wasp in half. The wasp just kept sucking the sweet jam from the plate as it poured out the other end from his severed esophagus. Like the wasp, unholy living sucks on God’s creation and never knows real satisfaction. Because there is no real “soul fulfillment,” the world’s enjoyment and passion will finally ebb.
In The Fall, Albert Camus pictured a lawyer who approached sex in this manner. It was strictly pleasure for the moment without the God-intended characteristics of love, life-long commitment, unselfishness, communication, and spiritual union. In the end, he abandoned sexual activity because of indifference and boredom; he had lost all passion for what he was doing. He saw himself as an empty wax facade.
Unholy living does not enjoy God’s creation too much — it falls far short of enjoying it enough. Holiness finds satisfaction and fulfillment in all of life. That “soul satisfaction” feeds and grows a passion for life. The holy life revolves around God in every place at every moment. It is a life of passion, fulfillment, meaning, and eternity.