A Call to 1 Peter 1:16
“Because it is written, ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’”
As Christians, we are called to be holy – this is a direct command from the Savior. If this were not possible, then Jesus would not have asked us to be holy. What does it really mean? How can we be holy? Aside from having the fruits of the Spirit, practicing forgiveness, and treating others the way we want to be treated, being holy starts with an altered state of mind. When we are focused on the cross, everything becomes clear. The cares of this world are stripped away, replaced by the awe of a glorious Savior who took our filthiness and shame upon himself, so that we would no longer have a breach between God and be able to live in eternity with Him one day. No longer would we be separated by our sins.
Taking in that gift, we cannot help but be transformed and inspired to share the joy. We are not burdened by rules and laws, but rather relieved by taking the weight of the world off our shoulders. Being holy, therefore, comes when we are honestly seeking Christ’s kingdom. Holiness is righteousness, righteousness is imitating the Lord, and imitating the Lord is the right to be called sons and daughters of God, as Christians. Together, as we help each other seek God more fully, we are transformed into purity. It is not by our own actions, but by the simple fact that God changes the heart. Where our hearts are, so are our minds. This means, that in living by certain beliefs, those beliefs define who we are. They are our labels. If there are any doubts we harbor, it will show in how we live. Not trusting in the Lord to take care of us in any area of our lives can be our stumbling block, dragging others down with us when they feel our doubts are warranted, and everyone locks into a state of uncertainty. That’s when hypocrisy becomes a real problem.
By realizing that we are only accepted into the Kingdom of God through our faith, it is of utmost importance that we hold fast to our beliefs. No amount of works or following rules will change a person from the inside, even if others are fooled into thinking that what they witness someone doing is that person’s true nature. Jesus was all about changing hearts. It doesn’t mean a physical, outward show – as circumcision once was. It doesn’t mean praying aloud like the Pharisees, either. Since God is always found as a still, small voice in the midst of the chaos around us, we are to find Him inside of US when we can take a step back and pause to hear from Him. As we heighten our senses to His presence, we are gradually changed FIRST from the inside, so that on the outside we are at true peace. As that peace is achieved, we take the plunge – literally – into the one physical thing Christ asks of us – to be baptized and lead others into baptism, as a formal acceptance of Christianity.
Perfection is not something we are able to do on our own. Many strive for it, fail, and grow frustrated. We recognize the beauty in perfection, but wonder how to achieve it for ourselves. Alas, only God is perfect in that sense. Just look at the natural world around us…nothing could be more perfect. And yet…God defines perfection and expects us to be perfect and accept that we’re perfect. Thankfully, Jesus was the only person on earth who did the physical work of perfection. While that itself was a sacrifice, He took it a step further by being the slaughtered lamb to take away the sins of the world before you and I were ever born. Therefore, nothing we could ever do would make his gift any more or any less than what it was. All our strivings fall short in our own estimations, but because of accepting the faith and strength of Christ, we are able to do all things – including being acceptable (perfect). How? Because perfection is not about actions, just as being holy is not about works either. It is simply having faith. Without faith, we don’t accept the gift of eternal life, and then we are not perfect. Of course, all have equal right to eternal life – but NOT EVERYONE claims that right. If a person does not care to know God, God will turn a blind eye. He hates to do so, but knows that He can’t force a person to love Him – it has to be of free will. It has always been about man’s free will. Therefore, when people in desperation attempt perfection through their lives and actions, it is a sure sign that they do not know God and are not known of God. Sadly, some of these people may reside in the Christian community. What they fail to realize is that perfection is part of God’s gift to us, and has nothing to do with our actions. We are made in God’s image, just as we are, emotions and physical traits. God creates nothing imperfect! He uses every deformity, pitfall, and bout of bad-luck to His (and in the long-run, our) advantage.
When we use the characteristics God places in our hearts after having the joy of faith, we are imitating Christ to the best of our abilities to those around us. No one is “better” at it than the next person. No one on earth does it “the best”. We are all judged by God alone, and therefore nothing that I do personally can be the set standard for you. Only Christ took on that burden, fulfilled it so we wouldn’t have to, and in exchange we have freedom. Does it mean we will always do the right thing? No, because Satan is always trying to take advantage of our freedom of choice by distracting us from what God called us to do while still on this earth. In unguarded moments, we stumble. We are still loved and accepted by God, and even forgiven – but we are called to make things right with one another when we hurt each other through what we consider “sin”, because that affects our faith and Christian characteristics that we developed by faith (also part of our motives). There is no act of contrition that we need do to be restored to God, however. Self-denial, heaping guilt upon ourselves and others, and ostracizing one another does nothing. Repent, and we shall be saved (of our sins)! That means acknowledge the wrong we did, and don’t repeat it! We are called to draw closer to God (note – this does not mean become RIGHT with God) by practicing forgiveness and humility with one another. As we do that, we love God more, and as we have that love for Him, we experience the deep relationship He wants us each to have with Him. We must continually look to our hearts, and then we are able to solve issues much better than living by mere laws of the land or of the church. When we hurt others, we are to see how to get past the problems we create. When we hurt ourselves, we are to realign our hearts to God’s plan for our lives, so that we can fellowship better with Him. Truly, life isn’t any more complex than that.
It doesn’t mean we will get along with everyone, hold the same views as the next person, or go out of our way to associate people with whom we don’t have anything in common, but it does mean that we can still be at peace with each other. When we have mutual peace, there is respect and openness on both sides, which paves the way for God to be seen. It’s not about who is right, or how popular a group is, but how much of a difference we can make in the lives of everyone around us so that the perfect characteristics God plants in us can spread to others and lead as many people to God before Jesus returns to Earth again to take us into eternity with Him.