I think this can be one of the most challenging and difficult aspects of Christian living, especially for a Western, productivity-minded culture like the one we have as Americans. We are a nation of do-ers. “What do you do?” is the question that we allow to define us, rather than “Who are you?”
We respond to introductions with an occupation – we self-identify by what we do: I’m a banker; I’m a pastor; I’m a stay-at-home Mom; I’m an insurance agent; I’m a teacher. We define ourselves by what we do, not by who we are.
Then we super-impose this philosophy onto our faith.
A self-evaluation of our relationship with God immediately degenerates into a listing of activities, rather than a status of being: I go to church weekly; I read my Bible every day; I tithe monthly; I try to act Christ-like at the office as a witness to my co-workers… We reduce our faith – and our identity in God – to a set of activities to either be done or not done.
But deep down, we know there must be more to our identity as God’s beloved, adopted children than just a checklist religious doings. Our doing should flow out of our being. Jesus redeems our identity – the Spirit renews (“regenerates”) our being!
One of the things regarding life in the Spirit that really has me the most baffled lately is our call to “be holy”. In both the Old and New Testaments, God instructs us, “Be holy, as I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26 and 1 Peter 1:16). I know how to do holy things… the concept of being holy, though, leaves me speechless and answer-less as a very unholy human being…
How do I be holy? I think to start to get at an answer, I have to start to look to the Spirit’s work within, to cooperate with Him, to submit to His will, to let Him start to make the choices, to let Him show me what the character of God is like, revealed in the Person of Jesus in the pages of the Bible, and to ask Him to enable me to live like that – to be like Jesus.
It’s not that our spiritual activities don’t matter. I almost titled this post “Being vs. Doing”, but the two are not in competition; they are – and should be – very closely interrelated! What we do as Christians is quite important. The point is this, though: what we do is secondary to WHO WE ARE. Our identity as God’s beloved, redeemed, adopted children – into whom He has poured His own Spirit! – is primary. Then, our doing can (and should!) flow out of our being.
How would you interpret the Bible’s call on our lives to be holy? Can you help me understand and help me be able to explain to others – in layman’s terms – the work of the Spirit in helping us be holy (as opposed to just doing holy things)?