Holiness. In our minds it seems to conjure up a polar opposite of Love. In his love, God seems near, constantly approaching us. But in his holiness, he seems aloof and moving ever farther away.

There is a measure of truth to that, but a larger measure of error. The truth is in the familiar idea that 'holiness' does not primarily refer to moral uprightness, but to being set apart. He utterly different. Totally other. He's way out there.

In his very helpful book "Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith", Michael Reeves makes the point that far from being a kind of contrast to God's love, his holiness is, in a sense, an expression of his love.

In our distorted view of reality, holiness seems like something of an imperfection rather than a perfection. It feels like God is getting hung up on petty little behavioural issues that seem to get in the way of his love. That tends to make us think of God's holiness as his problem rather than ours.

So, as Reeves puts it, our troubles begin

 ...because naturally I think I'm lovely. So if God is 'set apart' from me, I assume that the problem is with him (and I can do all this in the subtlest, most subconscious way). His holiness looks like a prissy rejection of my happy healthy loveliness. Dare I burst my own bubble? I must. For the reality is that I am the cold, selfish, vicious one, full of darkness and dirtiness. And God is holy - 'set apart' from me - precisely in that he is not like that. He is not set apart from us in priggishness, but by the fact that there are no such ugly traits in him as there are in us.

It's his love that sets him apart. Because his love is so different to our love. The perfection of love in which the three persons of the Trinity got on with one another in compete harmony with never a cross word nor a negative thought for each other for ever. So not like us!

If there is a sense of trajectory in the concept of holiness, it is not the trajectory of a God driven toward aloofness by a character flaw called holiness. It is our trajectory of becoming less and less like him since our initial creation in his image. And the characteristic in which we are sinking to greater and greater disparities is precisely in the realm of love. It is our love rather than his that has been soiled by aloofness and a sense of superiority, looking down on those with whom we relate. Where his love remains eternally pure and beautiful - an eternity of unbroken fellowship within the Trinity, into which, far from excluding us, he wants to welcome us in Christ. How different is that?

God is love. And as such is he so not like us!

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