The Christian really has a double task. He has to practice both God’s holiness and God’s love. . . Not his holiness without his love: that is only harshness. Not his love without his holiness: that is only compromise. Anything that an individual Christian or Christian group does that fails to show the simultaneous balance of the holiness of God and the love of God presents to a watching world not a demonstration of the God who exists but a caricature of the God who exists.
— from The Mark of the Christian by Francis A. Schaeffer, 1970
This concept of holiness and love entwined is behind all the mistakes Christians make. One of the double strand gets loose and my son is in his bed crying because of hurt feelings. Another of the double strand gets loose and we do something on Sunday that is not worshipful. Well, those are just two small examples. Christians make big mistakes, too, and a lot of bitterness and bad feeling builds up because of them. Or an ignorance of the true God grows in people’s hearts.
So we move past the unkindnesses. We strive to be loving.
So we strive toward true holiness. We move beyond the neglect toward God.
Slowly and imperfectly the double strand twines together to form what a Christian looks like, and this is what the Holy Spirit does in us.
With the first Bible study of the season coming up, I decided to reread some of the book we’re using, which is written by Nancy Guthrie. It tells about seeing Jesus in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Looking at the chapter about Leviticus (a rather boring book in the Bible) I realized how much I don’t even want to be holy. The Israelites in the Old Testament had their entire life structured for them so they could realize the importance of being clean and holy.
But my life in the New Covenant? I try to get away with the least amount of holiness. It’s as if holiness is a chore I want to get through with as quickly as possible. Church services: go there and get back home quickly. Prayer: short or my mind will wander. Bible reading: just a little so I can get back to reading A Portrait of a Lady. Teaching Biblical ways to my children: oh, well, I barely know how to do that; leave that to the Holy Spirit and the Sunday School teacher’s manual.
I’m reminded of the hymn “Take Time to Be Holy.” I really do need to take time to practice holiness. Or else I spend my time practicing selfishness. Or worldliness. It is so difficult to get priorities straight. I hope the upcoming Bible study season will help me along with these struggles, but ultimately, I know I have to ask for spiritual help from God, who can lift me up much more effectively than I can lift myself up.
I follow a blog called Samuel at Gilgal. The blogger posts short quotes from great Reformationists. Today’s post was entitled Preparing for Heaven, taken from something written by J.C. Ryle. He says we must be holy, heavenly-minded, on earth in order to be prepared for the glories of heaven. I wonder, then, what I have done today to be holy. There is the obvious answer: I read from my Bible. I prayed. Tonight, I sang some hymnbook songs at the piano after the kids were in bed (hoping the ones not sleeping would find it lullaby-like). I finished with the song “Take Time To Be Holy,” so you can see the issue is important to me right now.
A not-so-obvious answer: I fulfilled my earthly tasks of mothering and wifing (spell check should consider adding that word), and I don’t think I did it with a complaining heart.
I can see if I write more I will start sounding proud and self-righteous, so I’ll stop. What I’m really wondering now… how could I be more holy throughout the day? I think the key is to stop forgetting God. It sounds terrible, but I do forget. I go about living and try to conquer life by myself. To be more holy I need to stop and pray. The ongoing-conversation-with-God-in-my-head type of praying. I think if I could remember God more, I could remember to pray for peace when I’m upset, wisdom when I’m at a loss, love when I’m irritated, forgiveness when I’ve screwed up. I think I will begin by praying for help to remember. And I’ll be looking forward to the next life when I will never ever forget God.