I have claimed the title “Christian” for over 40 years and yet not a day goes by when I don’t learn something new from the Bible or feel God correcting me where I am wrong about something. When I had my first child, I was still what many would consider very “young” in my faith. A baby myself, but trying to do the right things to honour God. I came to Christ when I was 18. Six years later I was married to a Christian man, who was and still is an excellent provider, husband and father. Unfortunately, for my kids, I was a baby Christian.
My poor children suffered through years of what I now call “my crazy fanatical Christian days.” I talked about God – a lot. Everything was a lesson about God. Bible studies were mandatory. I became super paranoid about what might be considered “evil.” Alcohol was forbidden. Why? Because my church and especially the Christians I hung around with, said it was bad. Video games and movies that had violence, sexual situations or any perception of evil in them were banned. Santa Claus was outed as a fake. Why? Because the church made me believe all these things were inherently evil. My poor kids grew up hating God because of all these restrictions. I presented God to them in a horrible way. I should have submitted to my husband’s leadership.
My husband who is an introvert and as laid back and easy going as they get, would on occasion, try to correct me or show me where I was wrong. But, quite frankly, I was a fool and didn't listen to him. Why? Because I was an arrogant baby Christian, who thought she knew it all. And yet, he showed more Christ-likeness to those around him than I ever did. He didn’t separate himself from the world and join in on only “church-related” activities, but instead showed the world through his good character, friendly nature and ethical work standards what it was like to meet Jesus. While I tried to push everyone into accepting Christ, he did the opposite and approached people as Jesus did – he talked to them on their terms, listened, and showed them, Christ-like love. It took a while, but I finally saw the incredible value of his example. Unfortunately, it took me longer to lay down my previous convictions.
If only I had not been so head-strong when I was a new wife, mother and Christian!
Today, the things I used to care about so ardently, I no longer believe. I have grown wiser in my old age. But, sadly, where the church, in general, is concerned, I still see some foolish, headstrong, baby Christians. Some of whom have known Jesus longer than I have! And my heart weeps because I see people becoming paranoid about the world in general.
Every Muslim they meet is a potential terrorist. Every refugee is a terrorist for that matter. And so guns are purchased “just in case.” Why? Violence is not Jesus’ way. For it is written, “…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).” Gays are made to feel unwelcome instead of welcomed into the church with the rest of us sinners. There is a feeling in the church that has an unwholesome “us vs. them” mentality. It seems Christians are willing to elect politicians whose morals are questionable - at best - in the cause of supporting a "Christian values party." The phrase I often hear from Christians when electing immoral politicians is, “Let bygones be bygones!” Seriously? And Christians wonder why the church is no longer respected?
I say these things because I was there. I used to think that way, with an “us vs. them” mentality. Wanting to protect what is sacred and keep immorality out of my house. Be in the world and not of it, type of thing. But this toxic mess has made the church and Christians, in general, a joke. And through the years I can see it hasn’t become better, it has become worse! Which is why it is so important to learn about practising holiness.
So this is where we will start. Today, put away your preconceived ideas about what you think Christianity or being a “Christian” looks like. Forget everything you have been taught about how a Christian is supposed to behave. For example, one pastor I had as a baby Christian made it very clear to me what kinds of behaviour he disapproved of, and he made me believe that if he disapproved of them, so did God. Dancing was forbidden, in fact, it was so frowned upon that if the word "dance" was in a hymn we were not allowed to sing it. He had many other rules besides dancing, the list went on and on. Why was this particular pastor so set in his ways about these rules? He read one verse in the Bible that commanded him to “abstain from the appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and took it to a whole new level. Unfortunately, his interpretation of this verse made us slaves to the perception of others. I was always wondering what someone else was thinking about me instead of how God saw me. It is true we are called to not be a stumbling block to others (1 Corinthians 8:9) but to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). But holiness is not a list of rules. Holiness can only be found when we allow the Lord free reign in our lives. Then through Him, it is lived out in our lifestyles and our behaviour. But this is very hard to do if you feel you are constantly at war with the world.
In the Old Testament the primary word in Hebrew for holy or holiness is qodesh and it means something that is set apart, separate or sacred. Fundamentally, holiness is separating or cutting yourself off from something that is unclean and consecrating your life to what is pure. Take for example the sons of Aaron – Nadab and Abihu, in Leviticus 10:1-7 we learn that they offered “profane fire” before the Lord, which God had not commanded them to do. The result was that God killed both men. Why? Leviticus 10:3 gives us the answer: “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ”
Nadab and Abihu tried to worship God their way, not His way and thereby profaned His name. There is more to this story I will touch on later, but for now observe the final part of this verse – “Before all the people I must be glorified.” Our behaviour, how we act in public or in private must be with one thought uppermost in our minds – God must be glorified. The first step toward holiness then and your first challenge for the week is this – before you speak, before you act, before you react to a situation ask yourself one question – “Will God be glorified?” It won't be easy. I know, I've been trying to do this for a while but when you have a Type A personality like mine you tend to blurt things out first before thinking. I'm hoping to change that.
How will your behaviour change with this one question in your mind throughout the week? How will your language or thought process change? When we consciously put God first in all our thoughts and ways, wonderful things begin to happen. And the result? God is glorified!