Christians sometimes make things more complicated than they should be. They use religi-speak instead of ordinary English, muddling up the plain meaning of some basic concepts.
“Holy” is one of those. In the Old Testament, the definition is simple and clear – set aside for a single purpose.
Something doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be holy – just dedicated for a single purpose. Like a dedicated phone line connected to a computer.
One key in my pocket fits my front door. It doesn’t fit the ignition in my car or a safety deposit box at the bank. It has a single purpose: to lock and unlock my front door. Not everybody’s front door – just my front door.
God assigned Aaron and his sons to a specific task that no-one else was given. They were not assigned to be soldiers or farm hands. God gave them the job of priest, with a single purpose: protect the children of Israel from God himself. If they didn’t do their job, God’s presence in their midst would prove deadly.
Because God planned to come and reside inside their camp, and the essence of his presence was not compatible with contaminated creatures.
Before he could come, they would need a shield from his presence. The work of the priests, making animal sacrifices to obtain blood to create a barrier, would shield them. That blood and the intention of its use – payment, forgiveness, mercy – would protect them. Much like a lead apron shields and protects the x-ray technician in the radiology department. And so Aaron and his sons were set aside from the other tribes of Israel for this one single purpose.
In the New Testament, the word for “holy” still means set apart for a single purpose, but the definition also carries the connotation of “pure.”
100% one thing, not contaminated, not mixed with anything else, whole. Not pure human, however – pure good. 100% good, the way God defines it. No wrongdoing. No sin. No contamination.
Pure gold is 100% gold. That sounds great, but you can’t make jewelry from pure gold, it is too soft to be usable. Even diamonds aren’t 100% pure, there’s some tiny flaw somewhere. That’s why there are so many classifications of diamonds, so many price ranges.
Jesus said, there is none good but God. Nothing on this planet is 100% pure and nothing is 100% good, except God. But I Peter 1:15-16 tells us to be holy. How can God expect us to be holy, if that means 100% good?
He doesn’t, not in our own ability if that was even possible. What he does desire is that we agree to be set aside for a single purpose, like Aaron and his sons. Set aside for God’s purpose, his use and no-one else’s.
The purpose of our agreement to this request (accepting the blood sacrifice of Christ) is simple: it permits God in the person of the Holy Spirit to reside in us. He himself will provide our protection and prevent his presence from destroying us. He’ll improve us as we go along. He created the human race; he doesn’t want it obliterated.
Seen this way, being holy makes perfect sense to me, perfect, practical and wonderful.