holiness (part 5)

Jesus is the expression of God’s love and God’s holiness among us. When we see the Son, we see the Father, and this revelation, this direct revelation of God’s work in the work of Jesus, has to transform our perception of God’s holiness and embrace this identity as the source of our own. Holiness is about freedom. This is true about how Jesus lived, what he valued, and certainly true in the work of the cross. The work of the cross opens us up to freedom, breaking the bonds of slavery that happens whenever we try to find sources of identity or satisfaction in ways apart from God. Whenever we try to find these false sources of identity we sin.
Paul writes in Galations 5:1:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

In verse 19 and 20, Paul specifies some sins. But this isn’t an exhaustive list. Because sin isn’t limited to what is gross or distasteful or poor manners or bad society. It doesn’t just mean obvious, scandalous sins like drunkenness, or fornication, or whatever.

Sin includes, and maybe is most defined by, attitudes like pride, searching for power, for admiration, for control, trying to get people to approve of us, to give us a sense of our importance in ways that aren’t at all about God. It’s about us trying to affirm ourselves, not about serving God—even, and this is a hard thing, when we are thinking we are serving God. Indeed in Galatians 5 Paul is talking about trying to find identity through the law—through religion.

Churches, like everywhere else, are filled with people seeking false approval or false forms of identity. But, we often tend to excuse these forms of sin—ways in which people are trying to boost their ego—by noting how much apparent Christian service is in it. We see in the church so much of what we see in the world. The same sorts of conflicts, competition, defensiveness, control, alienation, passive aggression, or just plain aggression—in seeking after identity, and in responding to other people’s false searches for identity. But these forms of religion, that so seem like what we might call holiness, aren’t actually models of holiness. Because holiness is about God, and being like God, and loving like God, and trusting God in every part of our life, and every part of our identity.

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