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The concept of holiness needs a serious PR makeover. Here are some common words and ideas that I’ve found people associating with holiness: boring, safe, quiet, unexciting, un-excitable, mourning, tears, mild, conservative, weak, self-isolating, removed, out of touch…just to name a few. No wonder people aren’t after holiness. Their idea of holiness sucks. I don’t want to be those things… What’s worse is, out of a devotion and loyalty to God, some misguided people decide to become holy by trying to be those things. Argh! Instead of fearless, passionate, independent thinking, world-changing men and women of God, we get sad boring milquetoast… So let me start by pointing out one theological fact in the Bible about Holiness: in the Bible, holiness and happiness always go together…
Many people think a holy life means living in a perpetual state of mild depression. We think holy people are supposed to be “somber” (whatever that means). But in the Bible, in places like Psalm 1, the holy are HAPPY. The wicked are sometimes happy, but more often hungry and insatiable…but holy people are like trees planted by streams…there’s always plenty of water for them to thrive. The literal modern translation for the word “blessed” is really “happy!”
The people who are committed to loving their neighbors, their friends, have spiritual friendships (church) and seeking to please God first and not society…in other words, people seeking holiness…are the happiest people in the world. It’s their happiness that lets them try new things that are hard. It’s their underlying happiness that lets them take good long looks at their own sinfulness, and honestly assess where they need to grow. It’s their underlying happiness that makes it easier to love people and forgive – to take chances, to do what’s right instead of just doing what’s told…and even be “persecuted” for it.
Most people can’t handle regular life because they’re living in a mild state of misery… But people who try to follow God open themselves up to hard things that they don’t have-to do. How do they do it? They can do it because they are happy enough… Holiness and happiness go together.
By the way, being happy doesn’t mean you’ll never mourn… and this is complicated to explain – but simple once you get it – Jesus says even when you mourn you’ll be happy (blessed are those who mourn). Because you can be genuinely sad about one thing, and yet have an underlying happiness, seeing the big picture, knowing that makes all the mourning worth-it. Just the way only happy people can truly appreciate sad songs and sad stories…crying at the sad parts, and yet loving every minute of it.