Words I Don’t Really Understand: Holy

Have you ever sat in church or had a conversation with a Christian and wondered when they stopped speaking English? One second they’re speaking perfectly normal, then all of a sudden they start using strange words and you’re wondering if this is what Swahili sounds like. Just like any other group of people, Christians have their own lingo. Words and phrases that we use that are particular to us. And there’s usually nothing wrong with those words. But sometimes we forget to explain what they mean to the new guys. Or even worse, we use them ourselves without ever learning what they actually mean. Every now and again I stop myself and ask “What does this actually mean?”

I can’t hear the word “holy” without thinking about the old Batman TV show from the 60s. Each week, Batman and his youthful side-kick Robin would fight the colourful criminals of Gotham City. And each week Robin would exclaim some variation of his catch phrase – Holy Fate Worse Than Death – Holy Mechanical Marvel, Holy Diversionary Tactics. It just wouldn’t be Robin if he didn’t use the word “holy” so often you’d think he was getting a commission. But what does the word actually mean?

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

The Bible tells us that our God is a holy God. He is the very definition of holy. So looking at God will tell us something about the word “holy”.

God is the creator of the universe. There is nothing in existence that God didn’t create. Because there is nothing that God didn’t create, no one made God. He has always existed. There is creation and there is God. They are connected but separate.

Our God is a good and just God. He is not responsible for sin and evil – God wants nothing to do with it. We have been promised a day when Jesus will return and evil will be destroyed. There is evil and then there is God. They are separate.

When we talk about the holiness of God, we’re talking about his separateness. God is set apart from this world. He is set apart from the evil acts of a sinful people. Leviticus shows us that priests would need to be “cleaned” from sin, through ritual and sacrifice, before they could meet with God. The holy and the unclean could not co-exist.

As God’s people, living on this side of the cross, we have been cleansed from our sin. The sacrifice if Jesus has made us clean in the sight if God. We have been made holy. We can interact with God because of this great gift. So because we have been made holy, we need to act like we’re holy. We are to be set apart from the world. We are to stop acting like sinful, unsaved people. We are to hate sin and steer clear of sinful situations. We are to honour God with our every breath and our every thought. That’s what it means to be holy.

Being holy means being set apart for God. In what ways can you be holy in your every day life?

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