What it Means to be Holy
Throughout the Bible, the term holy has several meanings. Probably the most well known meaning of holiness is “set apart.” This could apply to a person who is bound to God, or even to a place where God is present, such as the Old Testament Tabernacle.
Holy is also used in the context of perfection or purity. In these cases, the word is often used to describe God Himself, or His people.
What holy is not, is unattainable or self-righteous. Many people have thrown around the term, “holier than thou” in reference to someone who is overtly confident in his or her fleshly efforts toward morality. To be truly holy is to be humble. Christ is the embodiment of holiness, and humility is one of His key traits.
There are also those who associate the word holy with something that is unrealistic. When The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:15 to “be holy,” it is intended to be something for which to strive. God knows we can’t be perfect, but His desire for us is to grow to become more like His Son, Jesus, as time passes and as we mature in our faith.
In essence, holiness is God’s priority for our earthly lives. A disciple of Christ should always be careful not to place a higher value on being “happy” than on being holy. Yes, it gives our heavenly Father pleasure for us to have happiness, but not at the cost of our personal holiness.
Why Holiness Matters
1 Peter 1:15-16 says:
But, like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy for I am holy.”
If you have accepted salvation through Christ, you belong to the family of God. He wants you to be different, or “set apart,” because that’s what He is. His desire for you is to be Christ-like. This is part of the abundant life Christ came to give us here on earth (John 10:10).
The more we become like Christ through the study of God’s Word and through the Christ-driven choices we make in our behavior, the sweeter our relationship with Him. Our lives will not be perfect, but they will be peaceful and abundant.
The pursuit of personal holiness not only benefits us – it has a positive impact on those around us. They can be influenced to pursue holiness, or even the starting point – Christ – by what they see in our lives.
It is important that we exhibit holy behavior before others, as to not cause them to stumble. This is particularly true with newer believers, or even non-believers. Since we are called to be different, the world will question why a Savior is needed if there isn’t a notable difference in the way we live and the way the world lives.
Another crucial point to consider is the holiness of our speech, not just our actions. Many of us struggle with our faith. We have questions, doubt, and sometimes, anger, when it comes to God. Part of our journey with Christ is examination, and He can certainly handle it.
For instance, there are times when something seemingly unfair or nonsensical happens that we do not understand. In Psalm 73, the psalmist has witnessed the prosperity of the wicked. In verse 15, he comes to the realization that if he vocalized his frustration with God on this matter, he would “have betrayed the children of the children of thy generations.” He saw the risk of injuring the faith of weaker believers.
Our pursuit of holiness extends far beyond our own lives. It affects the Kingdom of God. There will be times when we don’t feel particularly holy. Those are the times when we need to rely on what we know instead of feel and choose the path of holiness.