Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "And Can It Be That I Should Gain"1 (Lyrics)
Leviticus 22:32b – I must be acknowledged as holy … I am the Lord, who makes you holy. (NIV)
I'll never forget the "Holy Room" in my childhood house. We didn't call it that, but that's how it got treated. Although holy means sacred and consecrated, it also means set apart and separate from common use. This is the definition that I have in mind as I draw on memories of our "Holy Room" in an attempt to highlight the distinctiveness of our Lord and of our calling, "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16b NIV, from Leviticus 11:44b)
Our "Holy Room" was special and distinct. Here were displayed treasured items like china, lace, and heirlooms. We kids were kept out — for a good reason: We'd desecrate it! Our hands were often dirty, and our respect for this room was far from pure. We'd turn the couch into a trampoline, and it would go downhill from there. I think of the psalmist's words: "Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart." (Psalm 24:3b-4a NIV 2011)
On special occasions, company visited in the "Holy Room". They wore their Sunday best — in other words, not their barn clothes. This was farm country. Farmers had only two kinds of clothes: the "holy" and the common. Wearing Sunday clothes helped us to preserve the sanctity of the room and kept the visit special and distinct from the everyday life of hard, dirty work with animals and land. The rest of our house was common space, for common purposes — tainted with the marks of everyday life: dents, dirt, straw, dog hair, and toys.
In Old Testament times, all kinds of things were set apart as holy: ground, a mountain, days, artifacts, food, and above all, God's people. Distinctiveness was to immerse every aspect of life, even their clothing. Distinctiveness was the mark that reminded them who they were: a people set apart in identity and purpose, to reflect the holiness of God. That's how the Holy One would be recognized among the nations as utterly distinct from their cultural deities and practices.
Today, believers are also marked by distinctiveness, not through a law code, but through God's Spirit setting them apart by salvation and empowering them to reflect God's holy nature.
We kids obeyed the "Holy Room" laws because we had to. We never complained, but neither did we care about the reason for the rules: to protect something lovely and to honour the wishes of the lawgiver (our parents). Actually, we preferred common living, which in itself was quite fine.
However, it's not fine when professing Christians prefer the common ways of the world, unconcerned about everyday marks of ungodliness in their character or faith communities. Scripture repeatedly emphasizes holiness. For example, "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14 NIV 2011)
Prayer: Refiner's fire, my heart's one desire is to be holy and set apart for You, that I may reflect the beauty of Your holiness. Hallowed be Thy name! Amen.