Holiness and Healthiness

“Be holy, for I am holy.” – Lev. 11:44-45, 1 Pet. 1:15-16

I could easily mess around with the origin of the term and point out that holiness comes from the meaning of set apart, but while that’s fine for historical accuracy, it doesn’t really help me understand how I’m supposed to follow through with that command.

I’m also reminded of R. C. Sproul’s tale in The Holiness of God where he felt drawn in the night to place himself before the altar by a weighty presence that he titled holiness, but again, I’m not sure how that helps me to really understand how to follow through with being holy myself. Moreover, that description sounds like Rudolf Otto’s sense of the numinous as much as it does the holy, and numinousness, by its nature, is something we can’t emulate.

I need something that I can make sense of in the contemporary world. Holiness isn’t something that we run into on the street or deal with in the office, so how do I make the connection?

Recently, I heard what’s happened to someone I used to know. His life has more or less spiraled into something that’s clearly not holy. Relationships have fallen apart, there have been betrayals, maybe even some drug abuse or other addictive kinds of things going on. I don’t know all the details, but the general picture isn’t hard to piece together. It’s disheartening, but what I’m struck by is the fact that what has become of this man is something that can’t be titled holy.

Image Copyright Adrian ClarkWhat practical holiness is may be in question, but what it isn’t is somewhat clearer. When someone is that unhealthy, he isn’t holy. The converse, then, might bring us a little bit closer to answering the question. For me to be holy, I must, at least, be healthy. Or perhaps better, motion towards holiness requires motion towards healthiness.

In this day and age, the word healthy has come to encompass more than just the body, but it’s worth noting, perhaps, what some of the other potential connotations are. Relationships with others can be made healthy. One can be psychologically healthy. Some people speak of fiscal health, others of having healthy relationships with abstracts beyond people like relationships with work or money. I probably at times have an unhealthy relationship with my laptop and the couch…

To be holy, then, means that I must become healthy in quite a number of ways. I have to consider where my relationships with friends, parents, wife, colleagues, and so on aren’t right. I have to deal with where I’m dealing with our money and things poorly. I have to work on the emotional dreck that I carry around and find ways it can be healed. The ways that I’m twisted up or deal with people or things in twisted up ways, I have to work them through.

I don’t know that you can equate healthiness with holiness, but I think without healthiness, holiness is a long way off.


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