The Old Testament commandment “you shall be holy because I, the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2) too often evokes mental images of ancient saints in stained-glass windows, or worse, modern-day holier-than-thou attitudes. But that’s not what holiness is, or is about.
According to Christopher J.H. Wright, author of Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, holiness in Old Testament teaching included such things as “generosity to the poor… fair treatment and payment of employees…. practical compassion for the disabled and respect for the elderly… the integrity of the judicial process… safety precautions to prevent endangering life… ecological sensitivity… equality before the law for minorities… honesty in trade and business…” These same issues appear frequently in Jesus’ teachings as well. They are a large part of what it means, or should mean, to be a Christian.
Here’s the quote of the week, from the same book:
“The word holy does not mean particularly religious… When God said ‘You shall be holy because I, the Lord your God am holy’ what it meant, coloquially, was ‘You must be a different kind of people because I am a different kind of God’. [italics mine]