I touched on the issue of holiness in the first part of this thread, and I realise I didn't clarify quite what I understand by the word. I spoke about God's holiness in July 2013 - you can go back and listen to what I said.
One of the problems with holiness is that for something so good it doesn't half get a bad press. Other than being holier than thou do we ever think of holiness as a human trait (not even a positive one, please note). In a world where the media loves to give us examples of fallen idols where do we see the lives of holiness being lived out on the public stage?
I think of holiness as the defining characteristic of God, in that it is the characteristic from which all other behaviours flow; his love, his compassion, his forgiveness, his desire to bless, his justice etc. The threefold use of the word holy to describe in both Old and New Testament descriptions of God suggest, for me, this pre-eminence. And, of course, we are reminded in 1 Peter 1:15
be holy, because I am holy
Not only is this harder said than done, but Peter also skips making it clear quite what this means in day to day life, and specifically here Christian leadership. Elsewhere in the New Testament Paul gives specific instructions to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:2-4 although we might find these a bit uncomfortable to a modern ear and we would want to use more than the masculine pronoun)
A church leader must be without fault; he must have only one wife, be sober, self-controlled, and orderly; he must welcome strangers in his home; he must be able to teach; he must not be a drunkard or a violent man, but gentle and peaceful; he must not love money; he must be able to manage his own family well and make his children obey him with all respect.
As I expect to have to be clear about what I mean by holiness when I meet the local group to discuss these issues further then I am going to try to identify some key elements of personal holiness (and please add or correct if you think you can help).
1. If we are to be holy because God is holy then the first thing would be that there should be a visible outworking in the Christian leader of the struggle to explore what it means to be holy. This does not mean instant perfection, but should include a clear modelling of seeking forgiveness and working through the repercussions of wrong-doing.
2. A Christian leader is going to do things wrong. Trying to define exactly what is "permissible" is not the right thing to do, but there has to be a degree of transparency in order to underpin integrity. The important thing is God's holiness and not mine, so I should not try to make myself sound any better than I am in order to maintain my leadership position, but neither does the entirety of my life need to be on public display. There is great need, here, for accountability and this is difficult to achieve Church-wide.
3. Being holy is far more than keeping a list of moral commandments, but being holy incorporates how I vote, how I spend my money, what I do with my leisure time, how I foster relationships, how I react, it even supercedes my instinctive sense of how I should be treated. No wonder it is so hard to define it simply.
4. The way of holiness is also the way towards freedom. It is not a restrictive imposition. Yesterday we thought about the Beattitudes from Matthew 5
Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires;
God will satisfy them fully! (Matt 5:6)
It is easy to get carried away and think of the role or calling of the Christian leader as being somehow higher than that of the average punter in the pew, but this is not the case. The way of holiness for the Christian leader is the way to freedom for the Christian leader and the route to being fully satisfied by God.