What we long for will affect what we live for. (14-16)Peter calls these believers to be the holy children of God that God has called them to be. That means not living the same way we did before we were saved. Before we knew Jesus we were ignorant about God, who he was and what he’d done to save us by grace, but we were also ignorant of what it meant to live as his children.
But now it’s different. “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.”
We need to begin by understanding God’s holiness. Because we are holy children adopted by our Holy Father to bear the family image. It’s easy to misunderstand God’s holiness. That was the Pharisee’s problem, they shrank holiness down to law keeping. A list of do’s and dont’s and then hedged their bets by adding extra guidelines to make sure you never got anywhere near breaking the law. We’re tempted to do the same, to minimise holiness and make it manageable and limit its scope.
But God’s holiness is so much bigger than that. God’s holiness is about more than just his moral perfection. It’s God’s set apartness. His being different in everything. Holiness is the outshining of all that God is. God is holy in his justice and righteousness, love and grace, faithfulness and integrity, compassion and mercy. As God reveals himself to us in the pages of scripture we see the beauty of his holiness in everything.
As we read about God the Son made man in Jesus we see what that holiness in everything looks like lived out. As he loves God with his whole being and loves his neighbour as himself. As he both teaches about the need for righteousness and lives the perfect sinless live, but also in his love and compassion and welcoming of the most notorious sinners.
And now you know him, you are his children, you gaze on his holiness in all its majesty and complexity and beauty, live out your identity as holy children. Be who you were made to be, bear the family image! Be like God in your compassion and mercy, your generosity and goodness, in your faithfulness and loyalty, in your integrity and grace. In your care for the poor, the orphan and the widow. In your love and welcome of the refugee. In your hatred of sin and pursuit of righteousness and your love that reaches out in compassionate care for and welcome of the sinner. Be like God in your holy love for his church and your desire to see Christ formed in his people.
Being holy doesn’t shrink life down. It doesn’t shrivel our hearts and tie us to rules and drive us from people. Being holy like Father, Son, and Spirit does what we see in 2v11-12, it means we fight sin and live godly lives doing good in the world loving, inviting and welcoming the lost to know God in Jesus.
And this isn’t just about holiness in one area of life. Peter quotes from Leviticus 19v2, part of the holiness codes, where God calls for his people to be different in every area of life; from the way they respect their parents, to their worship, to their generosity, their truthfulness, their payment of workers, their work, their care for animals, their eating, how they use their bodies, how they treat the elderly, their neighbours, as well as how they treat God. Peter summarises all that with the little phrase “in all you do.”
Holiness isn’t a Sunday thing. We mustn’t reduced it to a religious thing. It is the disciples’ identity in all of life.
Disciples pursue holiness. We are made holy in Jesus to be holy. God’s children as they behold their Father, the Son and the Spirit in all their holiness become like him. Are we beholding God’s holiness? Seeing it lived out in the Son so that we become like what we behold?
So pursuing holiness is intrinsically linked with pursuing God. We become like what we behold, so pursue the Father. Reading scripture and ask what aspect of God’s holiness does this show me? What is there to praise God for? What is there to stand and marvel at in his character and beauty?
We become like what we behold. Pursuing holiness begins with pursuing God.