Monday, April 07, 2014


Hey, can I make you a smoothie?

Many smoothies are made at our house. On a typical morning, the Magic Bullet blender sounds more like a Magic Machinegun, spitting out concoctions purple and green. There are mild arguments over the best (and worst) ingredients. Some think anything goes, from spinach to yesterday’s leftovers; others follow a strict regimen of favorite fixings.

I like to create my smoothies as the spirit leads – my spirit, not God’s, though the results might be considered inspired. I would gladly make one for you. How about frozen blackberries, almond milk, half a banana, crushed ice, dash of ice cream, swig of maple syrup, dollop of french vanilla yogurt – and my special secret ingredient! Ready for it?

Just a little bit of dog poo.

Don’t worry. It was collected fresh this morning from the friendliest of pooches. And it is so very tiny a fragment of feces. You won’t even taste it, I guarantee. What do you think? Should I get started?

Of course not! Who do you think I am? The thing is revolting, even if the poo can’t be tasted. It would make you sick, if not physically then at least by the very thought of it.

“Holy” is a word misplaced in our vocabulary. How did you or I last use it? “Holy cow!” perhaps. I recently watched an amazing clip of some orcas chasing a pod of sea lions, and all the people in the boat could say was “holy shit!” over and over. What an odd oxymoron.

I think we are losing sight of the holiness of God. John says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” None, not even the tiniest little bit. To God, darkness is as disgusting as any quantity of dog poo in a smoothie. He will tolerate none of it, not even the smallest hint.

God does not shrink from sin; it is sin that cringes and crawls and finds a shady spot - if it can - in the blinding, blazing light of his glory. Darkness flees, powers concede defeat, and one day every knee will bow – willing or no – at the feet of the Holy One.

“Be holy, as I am holy.”

Seriously, God? Do you see where we live? Who can help getting their feet dirty as we walk about in a fallen world? Staying perfectly clean is a lost cause.

Granted. But that is not the point. Holiness is not something we can do perfectly; however, it is what we must be. Here is the difference: Be holy, and when you act less than holy you will know it and feel it – deeply. You will not put up with it long; you will do business with God and be made clean again.

John goes on to say, “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Light is holiness. When we walk with God in the light, though we inevitably stumble, our sin is quickly exposed for what it is and can be quickly confessed.

Our holy God is compassionate toward the worst of sinners. He does not bear a “holier than thou” attitude, even though that is what he is. Walk with him in the light and you will find yourself in the darkest places on earth, among people who can’t find their way.

God does not shrink from sinners; they flee from him until his love overwhelms and conquers them. Like Paul, to whom Jesus later said, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

So holiness neither makes us perfect nor sets us above our fellow man. But neither can holiness tolerate sin, any more than you can tolerate poo in your smoothie.

We have become accustomed to the taste of poo. Have grown to rather like it really, though it sickens and weakens us and corrodes our resolve until our concessions and compromises make us not very unlike the cesspool in which we live. The world has very many convincing arguments for the taste of poo, the rightness of poo, the right to poo, that poo should be acceptable to any lover of mankind. And we are listening.

But light and darkness are not two sides of the same coin. The room I am sitting in has a light switch, but no darkness switch. I can bring the light of Jesus into the darkest places, but I cannot walk in darkness and find myself in the light.

If that was confusing, here is an example. Your generation of believers has fewer scruples than mine about entering the dark places – the pub, the club, the party of a friend, your cousin’s gay wedding. Good on you! But when you are there, remember why you are there. If it is not to be light – holy, different, wholly other, redeeming, exposing, full of grace – you are probably simply walking in darkness.

Another example: You are better than my generation at dialogue with those who don’t share your Christian worldview – the atheist, the amoralist, the secular humanist. Well done! But what fellowship can light have with darkness? Be respectful, take interest, ask good questions, but stand for truth and expose the lies and evil scheming of your real adversary, who is not flesh and blood.

Be holy, as he is holy. Be so other than the world around you that they can’t help but feel a bit exposed by your presence, though you have uttered not a word of judgment or condemnation, and on the contrary have exuded grace and compassion and interest. Be so other that they see you as they saw Jesus, “a friend of sinners,” but no friend of sin.

That is holiness.

Can you add that word back into your vocabulary?