I was just listening to the All the Things podcast (it’s excellent! If you don’t listen, you need to!), and Krista Bontrager brought up a very insightful point. The angels in heaven that surround and serve the LORD say one thing, over and over again: “Holy, holy, holy!” Isn’t that interesting? Not “Love, love, love.” Or “Justice, justice, justice.” Why is that?
You would think that a similar message of “Holy, holy, holy” would be preached from pulpits all around. But as most of us know, that isn’t generally the case. Typically what you would hear about is that God is a God of justice or a God of love. At least, that is what is inferred. Although technically He is all of the above (and therefore, we are to be as well!), which one is paramount and best describes Him?
Love, justice, and holiness
When love and justice, for example, are front and center, it can get a bit confusing what that may look like. Love and justice are good things, and they seem like something we can actually do. That seems attainable. In contrast, holiness is more about who we are. That is not nearly as easy to achieve.
Additionally, living in the United States, whether or not we realize it, has imprinted in all of our minds Western ideology. Many of us want to do the right thing, and we have truly, very good intentions. That Western mindset encourages us to set our minds on the ultimate goals of being kind, compassionate, and gracious – full of love and justice. But here is the rub – to what extent? What does it mean to be kind, compassionate, and gracious? In what context? What does that look like?
For example, Katy Faust, author of Them Before Us, argues against in-vitro fertilization or surrogacy of any kind. Is that kind, compassionate, and/or gracious? What’s the more loving or just answer? It depends on who you ask (something to keep in mind is that the opinion of the children and babies these decisions affect is rarely, if ever, considered).
Or what of Israel and the madness happening in the Middle East? Clearly, we need to understand the history of the region and Israel – Well Versed is a great resource. But should we support the people of Israel or the Palestinians? God help us all, pray for the country of Israel as it defends itself against the pure evil of Hamas. But unbelievably, right now, many Christians are confused. Here again, it depends on who you ask if we are to support Israel or Palestine.
Unfortunately, many of us are sitting in the gray when speaking about or thinking through these and so many other hot button topics. This post modern era leaves us no hard and fast rules. It’s like we’re looking to stand on something solid, but we keep finding ourselves sinking in one kind of sand or another. We don’t know where to hold firmly onto a conviction, and when we do, often times we don’t know or understand both sides of the argument and all the nuances associated with it (Proverbs 18:17). To top it off, we are encouraged to think we’re acting in love and/or justice all the while.
Who in the world can help us navigate this cultural moment?
BUT GOD (Romans 7:24 – 25).
What is paramount
We are called to love – yes. Also, we are called to extend justice – absolutely! However, we are most importantly called to live holy and set apart lives that honor God. God’s Word says that because He is holy, we are to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). This is paramount. That is what the angels around God know. And that is what we need to know as well. LORD, help us to recognize this and try to be more like You!
The holiness of God is talked about obviously in Scripture. Every question we have has an answer in Scripture. Although not blatantly addressed, we know that God’s Word is complete. And therefore, we can look to Scripture to tether us to Holiness and Truth. Other books that help clarify the question of God’s holiness are The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges or Holiness by J.C. Ryle – Both excellent!
From that foundation of God’s Word, we can navigate the cultural moment we are in. I pray that although being loving and full of justice is indeed important (James 1:27), that we ultimately strive to be a HOLY and set-apart people that bring glory to God. And that the holiness we strive for isn’t based on popular opinion or what feels good. I pray that our holiness derives from the only source that is worthy – God’s Word.