The word “holy” is an adjective that belongs with God. But it is also a quality that is imparted to the things that God owns. For example, his land is called the “holy land.” It’s not holy for its moral quality, for land does not make moral choices. Rather, it has been consecrated and set apart as God’s physical space, so it belongs to him and should be treated in the holy way that God would treat it. It is holy because God is holy.
Likewise, you as a Christian, are holy. As sons and daughters of God, you have been consecrated and set apart. Since you belong with God, the quality of holiness belongs with you. Most translations will opt to call us “saints” throughout the New Testament, but the literal rendering of the Greek is, “holy ones.”
But before we go too far and say, “I’m holy because God is holy and that’s all there is to it,” let’s remember that holiness is first a quality of God. Therefore, holiness has a certain look to it, for it belongs to God only. This is why the Scriptures call us to be holy as God is holy, for we are the representation of God upon the earth. False gods have images of what they look like, but God has an image of what he looks like too: humanity. More specifically, God looks like Jesus, the true image of God and true human—the one human that modeled what real holiness looks like. And so when we look like Jesus in our actions and thinking, we show the world what God’s holiness looks like in a person.
Representation of God is a big deal in the Bible. Indeed, misrepresenting him by attributing his name to a place, thing, teaching, or movement where he doesn’t belong (that is, to take his name in vain) is to break one of the most central commandments of the Bible. God is holy and has imbued us with holiness and now expects us to live holy lives so that the rest of the world can see the true representation of the God of holiness in us and through us as we are continually chiseled into the image of Jesus, the true holy one. Therefore, holiness is a quality not only given, but also simultaneously pursued. Holiness has depth to it.
When we don’t pursue holiness, the world instead sees hypocrisy, for our quality doesn’t match up with the Qualifier—we’ve taken his name in vain through our false representation. And when people draw attention to this disconnect, our first reaction shouldn’t be to strike back like a Pharisee, but to apologize and recognize that though we are already being chiseled into the holy image, we are still in need of more chiseling. Then, even our newly discovered hypocrisy can go on to convict us toward a deeper holiness: a quality that we already possess for whose we are, but still need to grow more in every day.
*this devotional was inspired by the themes going in 1 Peter 1:13-25, found in today’s reading at commonprayer.net.