Monday, January 20, 2014

Something Sifty Going On...

Sifting through things is almost always the right idea, the right thing to do. Separating the desirable from the undesirable is a good exercise for the soul.

Of course, there are a few items that shouldn't need to be tossed through a sifter. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to recognize that some things are just too obvious.
I think of the imagery of the sifter when I read verses like this:
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 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 1:14-16)
There are things that, if we stop and look closer, need to be put into the sifter to weed out the chunks. Other things -- resembling, say, cinderblocks -- can be ruled out even without the aid of a sifter. But being "holy" just like God is?!?
The Greek word for "holy" is hagios, which can mean "an awe-ful thing" or "a saint", and we typically have two reactions to this verse:
  1. I could never be as holy as God, so I am perpetually doomed to failure, and
  2. Why does God expect us to be as holy as He is? Is that even possible? Is that fair?!?
But then I remember that another way of saying "holy" is "set apart".

Set apart from the ordinary. Set apart from the mundane. Set apart from the status quo. Set apart for a nobler use in the Master's hands.

And then I insert "set apart" into the passage:
But just as he who called you is [set apart], so be [set apart] in all you do; for it is written: “Be [set apart], because I am [set apart].
It's no less lofty a goal. It's still aligning ourselves with God's view, God's purposes, and making ourselves available for God's use.

But where "holiness" can conjure up mental an image of (usually legalistic) lists of do's and don't's, being "set apart" sounds more like an adventure with God that is positive and full of possibilities.

And therefore, sifting out anything that gets in the way of the adventure just makes good, old-fashioned common sense. And in view of the adventure, we won't even miss it.

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