Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.
People often recoil at the mere suggestion of being called to personal holiness. Oftentimes, this is wrapped up in what is really a misplaced and false humility, that kind of humility that says that since I’m good for nothing, and so there is no way I can even come close to being like God. Yet the fact of the matter is that we are made good by our Creator God who designed us to be like himself, perfect in holiness.
And if that seems too lofty to attain, Moses and Jesus spell out the steps to getting there today. Clearly, personal holiness is not simply a matter of saying the right prayers, fasting at the right times, going to Church every Sunday and reading one’s Bible. Those things are a good start and are key activities on the journey to holiness, but using them as a façade betrays a lack of real holiness. Because for both Moses and Jesus, personal holiness, being holy as God is holy, consists of engaging in justice so that hesed – the Hebrew word meaning right relationship and right order – can be restored in the world.
Every single command we receive from Moses and Jesus today turns us outward in our pursuit of holiness. Our neighbor is to be treated justly, and that neighbor is every person in our path. Robbery, false words, grudges, withholding charity, rendering judgment without justice, not granting forgiveness and bearing grudges are all stumbling blocks to personal holiness. All of these keep us from being like God who is holy. And worse yet, all of these things keep us from God, period.
The law of the Lord is perfect, as the Psalmist says, and the essence of that law consists of love and justice to every person. If we would strive for holiness this Lent – and we certainly ought to do so! – we need to look to the one God puts in our path, and restore right relationship with that person.