December 15, 2013

The Beauty of Holiness

 

Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness

(Psalm 29:2).

 

God is to be worshiped in the "beauty of holiness," both the beauty of our gratitude for God's holiness and the reflected glory of God's holiness in our own lives. We were made to experience beauty, and the highest beauty available to us is the beauty of holiness.

Unfortunately, holiness does not have the best of reputations. Those who strive for it are thought to be anxious, repressive, and slightly neurotic. Yet however many unhealthy people there may be in the world, such an image is an unfair caricature of the genuine seeker of God. If we do fit the stereotype of the emotionally strung‑out saint, we've probably not made our way very far down the path of real sanctity. Far from being incompatible with health, holiness may be defined as wholeness and health in the most comprehensive sense, as is indicated by the very etymology of the words. "The old word for holy in the German language, heilig, also means healthy. And so heilbronn means holy‑well, or healthy‑well. You could not get any better definition of what holy really is than healthy completely healthy" (Thomas Carlyle).

But if the holy life is not below the level of normal, there is also a sense in which it is not above. We don't help ourselves by thinking of holiness as an extraordinary state of being, not meant for most of us. In the Scriptures, obedience is presented as the ordinary thing. It is simply the intended, normal mode of human living. If anything is to be called extraordinary, that would be unholiness. To be holy just means that we're living a life where all the parts of our being are in their proper, normal place. Holiness is quite ordinary in that it is "the symmetry of the soul" (Philip Henry). And what a beautiful symmetry it is!

The human spirit was created to thrive on God's beauty. When we long for our God and reach for God, when we devote ourselves with a whole heart to showing forth God's goodness, we come closer to a beauty that from the beginning was meant to surround us and delight us.

 

Holiness has love for its essence, humility for its clothing, the good of others as its employment, and the honor of God as its end.

...Nathanael Emmons