I don’t how many times I’ve read this passage, but this morning it struck me as an odd thing to say. Perhaps the last thing I’d think of saying, given the situation. Yet, among the first things God would say. Hmmm . . . another reminder that His ways and His thoughts so transcend mine (Isa. 55:8-9).
I’d say, “I know. I think I understand. I can empathize to a degree. Hang in there. It’ll all work out. Keep on keepin’ on!”
God says, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
(1Peter 1:13-16 ESV)
It’s the context for the command that arrests me this morning. Peter’s writing to the “exiles of the Dispersion.” He’s addressing persecuted Christians on the lam. At the very least they’ve already undergone insults for the name of Christ (1Pet. 4:14). But that it was likely to escalate was evident by their need to flee. They were “suffering for righteousness’ sake” (1Pet. 3:14) and they could expect that they would increasingly “suffer as Christians” (1Pet. 4:15). They were taking it in the teeth!
And while our current season pales in comparison to what these believers were enduring, though we can debate whether or not governments are taking advantage of this time to stick it to us as the church, one thing we do know, hardship takes up margin. Whatever reserves we might have after just doing “normal” life, this current season consumes some portion of those reserves. There’s fewer points to give away on our stress charts these days. As weariness increases patience has a way of decreasing. As each day continues with its endlessly escalating numbers, our reservoirs of hope are drained. So, to be sure, just as Peter’s readers did, a word of encouragement is welcomed at a time like this. But honestly, who’s looking for a command to obey?
Peter opens his letter reminding them of the “genuine faith” they possessed and the opportunity their dispersion presented to affirm their trust that: God had truly given them new life; Jesus was really preparing a place for them in heaven; and, the Holy Spirit, by His indwelling power, would actually sustain them through whatever lie ahead.
But then, a command to obey. “Be holy in all your conduct.” Be holy as God is holy. With everything else they were dealing with did they need to deal with that too? Apparently.
Weariness has a way of tempting us to relax things a bit, to cut ourselves some slack in how we behave. I think that’s why the Spirit moves Peter to pen the warning, “Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” Instead, says the Spirit of Christ, time to lean into what you know, and Who you know, and who you are.
You are a set apart people, live set apart lives — especially in seasons of suffering. You are new creations in Christ, walk as new creations in a new way, evidencing a new power. Though your margin feels minimal, though your reserves are running low, though you feel like you’re running on empty, aim for the high road, walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Eph. 4:1).
Be holy, for I am holy.
Not something we can just gut out, but something we can surrender to. For the God who is Himself holy is the God who lives in us, and through us, by His Holy Spirit. And what God calls us to do, God enables us to do. Ours is to wanna do it. But sometimes we feel like we don’t even have the strength to muster up the will. Or, we’d prefer to self-medicate with something, or get lost in some distraction, rather than exercise a holy determination to be holy.
Like I said, it struck me as odd this morning that such a high and lofty command would be so quickly given to an oppressed and suffering people. But His ways aren’t my ways. And my ways are to be His ways.
And so, I want to be holy, even in this season, for His holy.
Holy by His grace alone. Holy for His glory alone.