As we wander down this crooked road of faith together, you will realize that at least a portion of my posts are spurred by sermons I hear whether that be at my home church or others. Today, I was struck by the sermon at my home church.
We are currently doing a series on the Baptismal Covenant. For those that may not have been raised in the church or are not familiar with this particular piece of liturgy, the Baptismal Covenant takes place during the baptism (shocking, I know). It is a series of statements that are said by not only the person being baptized but also, as in the case of infant baptisms, by the family or other parties of person being baptized. These statements profess the beliefs of that denomination and present ways in which the congregation will support those who have come to the faith through baptism. Today’s message was on the 2nd of these covenants which reads, “will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” (The Book of Common Prayer, http://www.bcponline.org/).
Now, there are two things that strike me about this passage. I’ll talk about one of these things in today’s post and address the next in my next post.
For today, let’s tackle the idea that we are created in God’s image and as images of God, we are called to be as He is – Holy.
Not good. Not better than the guy on the corner that cheats on his wife or the woman you heard about that’s a kleptomaniac. After all, in the game of comparisons, it is always easy to find someone who is worse than you. As an aside, isn’t it funny that we rarely play the comparison game looking for those who are better than we are? Better at being compassionate? Better at being merciful? Or just in general better? But that’s a topic for another day.
As I said before, we are called to be Holy and this is something that we simply cannot do on our own. We will – not might, but will – fall short of this calling. You following me so far? Not too far out of the range of what you have learned, had you had the opportunity to be raised in the church? Great. Because here is where my ears pricked up and took notice beyond the norm.
The pastor today went on to say that we as Christians are called to be holy. That those to whom God was speaking, the people of Jerusalem, were called.
So does this mean that those who are not Christian are not called to be holy? And if those who are not Christian are not called to be holy, why do we evangelize? It would only seem logical to me that if all are not called to be holy, all are not called to be Christian and therefore evangelism is a worthless endeavor.
Well that seems sad, to say the least, and definitely contrary to both what I have been taught and what my heart tells me is true. I have always been taught and have read in the Bible that it is my duty to bring others to the faith of Christ. But if all are not called to be Holy does that mean that those who are not called to holiness are instead destined (or called?) to condemnation? And to follow this thought through, if there are those who are destined to condemnation, are we not a dealing with a God who is not all loving? Well, if it were a fact that there are those that are called to live a life of condemnation, living out eternity in whatever hell looks like, that certainly doesn’t seem loving, merciful or gracious and I don’t know that I would not want to worship that god.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I don’t believe this to be the case. First, I don’t believe that any of us are called to be condemned. I do believe God is an all loving, merciful and graceful God. Yes, I realize there are those who will choose and have chosen not to believe in the presence of my God or any god, but is not because they were “called” not to believe, rather they have used their free will to make this decision. It is, after all our choice. Second, I have throughout the years come to believe that we get more than one opportunity to make the choice one way or another.
I probably just lost some of you there, but here’s my thought process.
We all know that people around us mature at different rates. Some seem to be born wiser than they have a right to be while others never seem to mature out of their teen years. How can a truly loving God offer us one trip through life to come to the understanding of who He is and make the choice to want to be Holy when we are all so very different and may not be in a place emotionally or even physically to make this decision before we die? What about those who die particularly young or who are not mentally capable of understanding the complexities of holiness? I mean, heck, I’m not entirely sure I understand it and I believe I am at least relatively intelligent (doh! There goes that comparison thing again!). It is for these reasons as well as many others that I believe what we know of life -this world, and the universe as a whole – is mere minutia compared to what there is to know.
The God I know is big – bigger than my feeble human mind can ever completely understand. He created this earth, these heavens and this universe as well as more and He doesn’t operate in the linear, time constrained world that we do. For Him, this time – beginning to end – has already occurred. It’s not that our destiny or fate or whatever you choose to believe in is already chosen by Him, but rather He has already seen what our choices are. Good or bad, He knows what we have done and will do. How does that work if He hasn’t predestined what we will do? That’s a much bigger question for a different time, but suffice it so say it is the difference between our linear life and His non-linear one that makes this possible.
Finally, what we will do in this life affects what we will do in the next. This is a big journey we are on and it takes more than a few decades to accomplish it.
Now for you strict Bible people you must really be shaking your heads in disgust and astonishment by now. How could I possibly suggest something so Buddhist, New-Agey or just plain crazy and call myself a Christian? Because the Bible – which was written by human men living an earthly existence – doesn’t mention reincarnation doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. The Bible only mentions a few woman, too, but we know better. Why is this different? Maybe the heaven described by John in Revelation is merely the ultimate end of our journey. Or maybe, because the men called to write the Bible were all human, they were not aware of other lives they had or could live. There is no way to know.
Just so you know, I do believe that the Bible is true and written by God through men, but I also believe that there is far too much to the story of God to be contained within one book. It gives us our guide, it heals our wounds and it speaks Truth but it is not all there is. There is faith and prayer and fellowship with God and His people. All of these things teach us who God is and what being Holy means
I’m getting long-winded here so let me just give you the bottom line on this topic.
I believe it is true that we are called to be holy, but this is not only a Christian calling. We are ALL called to be holy and we will all have the opportunity to obtain this holiness. Will we all reach this end? I have no idea. What do you think? Is it possible we won’t get there? Sure, but I fully intend to get there. Do you? What do you think of this whole holiness thing? I would love to hear your thoughts and insights.
Until next time….