DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 7
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“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.’”
1 Peter 1:14–16
When my husband and I travel to New York City, one of our favorite places to go is a little mom-and-pop coffee shop that roasts their own beans in a hundred varieties, with a bench for sitting out front and a water bowl for man’s best friend. Above the shop, there are several levels of apartments. The whole unit has been in the family for three generations.
On one visit, we had the pleasure of conversing with one of the owners. We learned about the family, their history, and why they love coffee so much. For this family, coffee is not just an energizing beverage—it is, by nature, a substance that brings out the idiosyncrasies of the drinker as they awaken. They also believe coffee helps bring individuals into community, as partakers converse with cups in hand. This family is in the business, you might say, of waking us up to who we are and allowing us to gather and share ourselves with others. In this way, they believe they are offering goodness to the world.
In today’s reading, Peter shares his vision for the Christian family. Our “family business” is holiness. Holiness comes from the Hebrew word qadōsh, meaning “sacred, pure, sinless, set apart for God, and separated from impurity or blame.” Operating from a place of holiness is part of our inheritance; it is the “trade” God the Father has passed down to his people through the generations. It is our mark, our contribution, and the gift we give to the world—to be holy as our Heavenly Father is holy. Obedient children are to be about their Father’s good work, minding our Father’s business.
But why such a strong emphasis on holiness?
The concept of holiness may be one that is lost on many of us. However, the ancient Israelites were accustomed to elaborate ceremonies of purity, washing, cleansing, and a lifestyle of keeping clean. This included what they ate, what they wore, and in what activities they engaged. These practices and ceremonies pointed to the larger concept of spiritual cleanliness and a willingness to serve and set oneself apart for God.
God’s command for us to be holy does not mean we are just to follow a set of rules, though it does involve that. It is ultimately for our characters to reflect God’s—to be pure, blameless, and set apart for goodness.
Interestingly, similar to the shop owners’ view of coffee, holiness is an entity that wakes us up to our true selves. It is through acts of obedience that we discover who we’re truly meant to be. We see how God has designed us to live and function in his world. When we exhibit holiness, it also betters any community partaking of it! Holiness is a goodness, rightness, brightness, and mercy to a world wrought with wickedness and darkness. And, holiness is not only preventative, keeping us from bad and hurtful things, but also restorative, reviving us to live fuller and more satisfying lives. Holiness makes us whole.
One objection some have with the command to live a holy life is the concern that it may infringe upon their autonomy and self-determination. We 21st-century North Americans believe we are in charge of our lives and dictate all our own decisions. We called this concept “freedom,” and we get extremely bent out of shape if it is threatened! But the reality is, something or someone is always sitting on the “throne of our hearts,” as it were. Something is calling the shots and dictating our behavior. Truly, we are not “free.” Really, the question is: Whom do you serve? Who or what is calling the shots in your life?
Another objection some have to the idea of holiness is this: “If people live a good life, doesn’t that make them good people? Isn’t that enough?” Certainly living a “good life” can be a blessing to one’s self and others. But there is a world of difference between human-good and God-good, and it’s not just a matter of semantics or opinion. People are capable of doing good things, but no human being is capable of being righteous before a holy God. He alone is holy!
Humans, by nature, are not holy. Now, as an aspect of bearing God’s image, people do have facets of his goodness bestowed upon them. They may be kind, generous, or patient. But no one is righteous, meaning in right standing with God (Romans 3:10). Before a holy God, all of humanity is woefully unclean (Isaiah 6:5). In our natural human state, we are ignorant of God and controlled by our desires and futile thinking. And, apart from God, we remain that way.
But God in his mercy takes those who are unclean, disobedient, and unrighteous—regardless of our pasts—and cleans us. He applies Christ’s righteousness to us. He wakes us up to our true created selves, causing us to be even better than we were before. With God in our lives, we are enabled to live holy lives. We are freed from slavery to sin into the service of a good, kind God. We now can desire to follow his holy ways, conforming to his holy character. We become “wholly holy” children of our holy Father.
What Peter is saying is that the certainty of hope we have (v. 13) should have an extraordinary, distinct, and undeniable effect on how we live our daily lives. Our new “family business” is to be holy (vv. 14–16), joyfully living out our Father’s commandments. Of our new legacy, Psalm 119:111 (NIV) says, “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.” It is through joyful obedience that a life a holiness becomes a desirable good, a sought-after commodity.
So, it’s time to “open up shop” and be about our Father’s business.