Holiness, Worship, and "Stuff"
Recently, the idea of "holiness" has been on my mind. As soon as I started thinking about it though, the quicker I realized I have a lot of misconceptions. I often think of holiness as "not doing bad things". Pursuit of holiness to me is often reduced to, "don't sin".
A closer look at how the Bible uses the word holiness reveals that it means something much more like "set-apart-ness". We are called to be set apart, or a "royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession" (1 Peter 2:9 a). In other words, God is wholly set apart and desires us to be his own set-apart adorers. Or put another way, we are called to distinguish ourselves from the self gratifying world and worship God alone.
But how does this "setting-apart" work? Certainly we are still human and look like other people. We eat, breath, sleep, talk, make babies, wear clothes, sing, dance, study…. In short, we are a part of and create culture just like everyone else. Culture carries much of our identity as humans beings, but culture is also made up of a bunch of stuff. We do not exist in a vacuum, and we do not worship God in one either.
I like to think of worship as a turning or obsessing of the heart towards something or someone. Jesus says in John 4 that God is Spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth. However, it is impossible for us to separate our spirits from our bodies, so the Bible is full from end to end on ways in which to discipline the body in order to enable our spirits to worship. This is worship, the disciplining of our bodies in order to turn our hearts towards God.
However, as soon as we involve our bodies, we also involve the eating, breathing, sleeping, singing… we cannot worship God without using our bodies and including other people in some way. Culture is the means by which we express our obsession, devotion and worship of the Holy God. The holiness, or "set-apart-ness", is the way in which we use culture, not the avoidance of it.
If this is true, we should be incredibly concerned with how our culture functions as a context and means of our worship. We exist in a world full of other people, their "stuff" and their priorities. God has made us holy, set apart, so that we "may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9 b) God sets us apart for his own glory and then sends us right back into culture to redeem it so that our worshipful expressions might reflect his glory even more than before. The measure of our worship of the Holy God will be echoed in the passion we carry to redeem the culture we use to worship him with. In other words, the fulfillment and satisfaction we find in our relationship with God is the source of our energy to include other people and their cultures in it.
The holiness God calls us to is an identity in himself and the expression he desires of this is a redeemed culture's worship in spirit and truth. Sin hinders us in this pursuit, so there is an aspect of holiness that requires a struggle against sin, but the struggle is not the holiness.
There are many things I could say about how I see the Arts being an important part of both Christian worship and the broader culture, but this will have to be for another day. I'll end with this though; what areas of life do you find to have a great influence in both the popular secular world and Christian worship at the same time?
10/14/2013 01:21 PM