Today we come full circle, ending our meditations on holiness
where we began—namely, with God’s declaration that
we will be holy. The call to holiness can feel intimidating, even
terrifying. None of us feels up to the task. And yet we dare not
ignore the call. God doesn’t say we will strive for holiness but
most likely come up short. Rather, God declares that we will be
holy as God is holy.
In some sense we rightly feel intimidated by the call to
holiness. On our own, we simply aren’t capable of the life God
envisions for us. We aren’t capable of sharing our resources with
friends and strangers alike. We aren’t capable of taking deep
delight in God’s laws. We aren’t capable of loving our neighbors
and enemies the way Christ does. We aren’t capable of showing
grace and mercy to everyone we meet, regardless of how they
The good news is that the call to holiness is first and foremost
a promise that God will do for us and in us what we cannot
do for ourselves. Apart from the indwelling presence and
power of God, we will languish spiritually, falling well short
of the lives God intended us to lead. But when God draws near,
that which we would otherwise deem impossible becomes
possible, including our holiness and perfection in Christ Jesus.
Finally, while God’s presence makes our holiness and perfection
possible, we must also do our part. We must remember
the sabbath and keep it holy. We must desire and honor God’s
law. We must participate in the means of grace whereby God
draws near to God’s good creation. And we can accomplish all
this because the Holy Spirit accompanies us every step of the
way, fostering the desire for God and the things of God in the
innermost recesses of our hearts.
Holy God, have your way with us and in us so that we may be your holy people, transmitting your holiness everywhere we go. Amen.
These texts evidence relentless concern with the moral requirements that belong to life with the God of the Bible. They assume the foundation of covenantal law in God’s rescuing acts. That foundation is implicit in undergirding these several treatments of God’s commands. The psalmist is aware that the commands of God constitute a radical counter-obedi- ence. The text from Leviticus brings us to the core claims of cov- enantal law. The rule of the God of Israel leads directly to focus on the neighbor. The neighbor is not just an inconvenience or an intrusion but is the stuff of moral awareness. Paul’s admonitions to the Corinthian Christians state the bold claim that Jesus Christ is the central focus of every Christian’s commitment. The Gospel reading invites the community to reflect on, imagine, and devise extra measures of neighbor love that reflect the character of God.
• Read Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18. What would be some signs that you are attaining the holiness God desires?
• Read Psalm 119:33-40. The writer states that “Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to perfect it.” How did/does Jesus do that?
• Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23. Consider how these two statements relate to your life: “We do not have to be morally perfect before God will dwell within us” and “We can be morally impure after God comes to dwell with us.”
• Read Matthew 5:38-48. What instances in your life show that you “reject the call for retaliation or revenge in favor of the higher calling of forgiveness”?
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