I believe I’m a pretty fair dinner guest. Most of you would be comfortable having me in your front room to chat, or at your table to share a meal with your family and friends.
I’d make polite conversation and avoid issues too prickly or partisan so as not to upset anyone. I’d mind my manners and leave for home at a reasonable hour.
You’d be less comfortable with me, however, if I had a tendency to show up unannounced, invariably when the house was in disarray or as you were running late for an appointment.
You wouldn’t welcome me too long if I were caught flipping through your checkbook registers or inspecting your mail (“Why do you need three credit cards anyway?”). I’d likely not be invited back if I were found going through your medicine chest (“Lot of ointments and creams in here…”) or bureau drawers (“What have we here?”). It’s simply not polite.
And yet, God expects to be invited into these places.
There is a word sometimes tossed about in church circles I think is often misunderstood; the word is “holiness,” and God expects this from us… it’s in the Bible (a lot.) What does that mean?
Thankfully, it does not mean being perfect or without flaw. This is admittedly oversimplified, but I think of holiness as a willingness to invite God to be “wholly” a part of everything we are, have and do.
That means inviting God into our late-night television watching and into our diets. God cares about our sex lives and political rhetoric, our finances and free time; even our Sunday mornings.
Holiness matters because God cares what we look at on the Internet when no one else is around. God cares about how much sleep we get (seriously, almost 1/3 of our lives!). God cares how we treat the elected leaders from the other party, how we treat minorities, immigrants and the environment.
God desires us to dedicate the whole of our lives; our making room for God in everything we do is called holiness.
To complicate matters, God tends to show up at the most inconvenient moments: The kids are dragging their feet, and just before you blow your top in frustration, there he is. Someone starts telling a joke you know couldn’t be shared around your grandmother… there’s God, standing within earshot.
God has heard all the justifications and has been present for every decision. God is not known for staying within the bounds of polite conversation. In fact, God tends to meddle in our business, mess up our plans and challenge our politics.
To risk a cliché, “God loves us where we are, but is not content leaving us there.” What to do?
Lent is a season where we attempt to discipline ourselves into letting some limiting habits go in order to make room for better practices.
This year, I think we should start by sacrificing our tendencies to only welcome God into sitting rooms of our lives, while shutting Him out elsewhere.
This is never easy or comfortable, but pursuing holiness means offering our lives wholly.
See Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 12:14.
By Mitch Jarvis
(Mitch Jarvis pastors Neosho United Methodist Church. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)