For those who have read my blog in the past, I apologize for the scarcity of posts over the past many months. At long last we are settled into our new home–well almost settled in. After four months of house sitting, as wonderful a blessing as that was, it is a delight to be in our own town home. It isn’t anything exotic, but it is a place to call home. The need to have a place to belong, a place that is ours, is probably worth reflecting on in the months ahead.
Another topic that I have been grappling with is the tension between personal holiness and loving those who are unholy. Of course we are the unholy in and of ourselves, but in Christ we are made holy. We are called to be blameless and above reproach, yet also to love as Jesus loved. Jesus didn’t exactly avoid the blamable and the reproachable, if He did, what hope would there be for us?
So here we are, called to holiness and to love the unholy. Putting aside the “who are you to call yourself holy or to judge others as unholy” question–for that is not the immediate question here–we are left with what appears to be an irresolvable disjunction. How can the “holy” love the “unholy” with out becoming unholy. It sounds like taking a mud bath and staying clean. Yet, is that not what Jesus did?
It is hard to blame the Pharisees for questioning how Jesus could be the Messiah when He ate and drank with sinners. All we have to do is to look in the mirror and see our own tendency to distance our selves from the “unholy” when we are feeling “holy.” It is as if fleeing un-holiness makes us holy.
So what of it? Can we grow in holiness while growing in love for the unholy? Can we be holy and love those who Jesus loves?
Maybe the better question is, can we grow in holiness apart from growing in love for those who we would judge as “holiness challenged”?
Paul, in a prayer for the Thessalonians wrote,
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).
It would seem that love for one another–the “holiness challenged” apparently not excluded–is a prerequisite for being established “blameless in holiness.”
This does not mean that we love un-holiness, but it does mean that we do love one another despite our mutual un-holiness. In that sense, we are called to love those who are un-holy. After all, Christ loved us first while we were “un-holy,” and apart from Christ we have no holiness worth speaking of anyway.
Perhaps the, or at least a measure of our own holiness is our love for those who seem to us to be “unholy.”