Be Holy Because I, the Lord Your God, am Holy. Lev 19:2
One of the number one complaints from Millennials about Christianity is that it is filled with hypocrites. As people unearthed that Kim Davis had been remarried multiple times, they began to criticize her hypocrisy on the sanctity of marriage.
Davis is not alone though. The church is filled with hypocrites because the church has been getting this whole faith things backwards.
American Christianity has become mostly about morality. Preachers are preaching how to live out 7 successful habits with or without Jesus, much of youth ministry is a parent’s desperate attempt to place their kid into contact with a “cool young adult who does not drink, smoke pot or have sex until married,” Vacation Bible school is about becoming a good citizen and learning a bland understanding of love. So, since the church has joined most other religions it has created a hotbed of hypocrites.
What struck me while in Belize as I toured the Mayan ruins is the very unique statement of Christianity that sets itself apart from all other major world religions. Christianity is not about morality. In fact, the most moral people I know are not followers of Christ.
While in Belize, we learned that the Mayan god was a jaguar. Therefore, when a royal child was born a wooden board was placed upon his head in order to dramatically reshape his skull so that it would look more like a jaguar (think Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull). They would physically alter the human form in order to appear like their god.
It, like most other religions, was about humans becoming like gods.
Most world religions make their emphasis about our making our way up to their god: our ability to obey the Torah, one’s obedience to the five pillars, reaching a state of nirvana, a special set of undergarments, meditative states, mindfulness…It is about moral living, making good choices, and obedience to prescribed rules. It’s the charge, “be holy because I am holy.”
And most of Christianity has succumbed to this belief system.
However, the story of Christ is the exact opposite. “Christ-like” is not a word in scripture…and as I often quip, I’m trying to be more “Paul-like” first, since he tells us to become imitators of him. In fact the only thing Paul wants us to be like Christ is in his death (Philippians 3:10). It is not about us making our way up to God. It is not about physically adapting our baby’s skull so that he may be godlike; nor is it about our mutilation and humiliation in order to be loved by God.
It is about a God who made His way to us.
It is about a God who physically adapted Himself in order to be like us. It is about a God who was so determined to restore His creation that He did not wait for us to get our act together. He came to us, in order to be mutilated and humiliated for us, so we would not have to be.
I once got into a long debate with a pastor about the Hebrew word in the middle of the above quote—Because (). The way most of us read that phrase is as a command to obey: “Be holy because I am holy.” Moralism.
However, if we read it through the lens of Grace, it would take on a whole new meaning. We are holy BECAUSE of Jesus Christ. As the BDB states this word “enunciates the conditions under which a future action is conceived as possible.” Its possible to be holy because of Christ.
Discovering this freedom in Christ has allowed me to reorient my life to do two simple things: Trust God and Enjoy Today.
I am a hot mess and while I often cannot even accept that about myself, when I stop to remember that even in my “hotmessiness” Jesus loved me, I find the hope for another day.
If Christians could actually accept that premise and not propogate moralism it would revolutionize people’s lives. They would be drawn to the story of a loving Creator who…well let me just let Paul finish this story in song:
Have this mind among yourselves,
which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.