Holiness

Warm coastal areas are a perfect environment for mold and mildew. Even the best-built buildings can have spaces where these little fungi can get a foothold and grow, despite efforts to keep them clean. But other buildings with leaky window frames, poorly sealed concrete walls, inadequate insulation, or site flooding can be eaten up with the stuff.

Not many buildings and houses on the gulf coast have basements – for a good reason. But my former church had a basement with a fellowship hall, kitchen, classrooms, and offices. That musty smell hit you when you walked down the stairs. Books in the library and wooden furniture acquired a white powdery film if they weren’t frequently wiped down. Carpet and fabric surfaces were beyond the help of Febreeze. Stalactites grew in the window wells. I kid you not.

I worked in a small coastal Mississippi community at the juncture of two rivers, laced with creeks and bayous running throughout the town. Extreme flooding during hurricane Katrina left few buildings untouched. Mold and mildew multiplied in the September heat as people tried to salvage what they could of their lives and possessions. Even outdoors, streets lined with mounds of debris had that familiar pungent odor.

Not only is mold unsightly, but it is also unhealthy. Exposure can result in various symptoms, especially for people with respiratory problems and compromised immune systems.

So how do we get rid of it? For small spaces and items, cleaning with vinegar solution or bleach may kill the mildew and mold, but people may need professional mold abatement for larger areas. In worse cases, demolition is necessary. Doing nothing is not an option.

An aside that I find interesting are the laws about “leprosy” in Leviticus 13 and 14. This is not the same as what we call leprosy today, otherwise known as Hansen’s Disease. Scholars aren’t sure what it was, but it was a visible, contageous illness. They also believed it was an outer manifestation of an inner spiritual problem. The text goes on to describe houses and garments becoming leprous. Some think that may be speaking of mold, but it also reflected spiritual issues. That’s a topic for another day.

Several years ago, I heard Miriam Swanson Swaffield speak about holiness. She said most people think of it as wearing white jeans. Of course, we do all we can to keep those jeans clean, so we watch where we sit and avoid places that might get us dirty. But it seems futile since we’re prone to drop spaghetti sauce on them, or the dog jumps up on us, or we trip and fall into a muddy puddle.

However, she said, don’t think of righteousness or holiness like the jeans we put on. Instead, she noted holiness is like bleach. We stain the jeans, but the bleach makes them white again.

David took his sin to the Lord in Psalm 51. He repented and said,

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

It’s never our righteousness; it’s the imputed righteousness of the Lord upon our lives.

Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you. – Leviticus 20: 7-8

In fact, we can go all the way back to Abram. Before the covenant when he received the promises, and his name was changed to Abraham, in Genesis 15:6 it says,

Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

And I love the prophecy to Jeremiah regarding the Messiah.

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ –Jeremiah 33:15-16

And Paul explains what Jesus did in his death and resurrection:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. –2 Corinthians 5:21

He is the bleach. We are covered in mildew and mold, metaphorically speaking. Our white jeans are filthy rags. But He comes to splash his bleach all over us. Head to toe, we are made clean. Holy. Sanctified. Righteous.

We don’t have to be so picky about where we sit anymore, but we still try. The storms of life overwhelm us and leave us in a moldy funk. If we fall in a mud puddle, we can get up and go to Him to clean us up again. In fact, He gives us the jug of bleach to take with us. We can go where others are dirty and moldy to share the bleach with them. We can sprinkle and splash it generously all around. He’s got plenty more where that came from.

That’s good news, isn’t it?

5 thoughts on “Holiness

  1. Love this post, Dottie. The struggle I have is being surrounded by people who think personal holiness is a reflection of our relationship with God. The way I read scripture is we cannot be holy no matter how hard we try, it’s all God’s doing. But knowing that, where is the line between trying to be holy and trying to replace God in our attempts to be holy?

    Liked by 1 person

    • IMHO as we grow in grace, the Holy Spirit enables us to become more like Jesus. Not that we ever attain perfection in this life, but as our desires change, our outward character & behavior also change. Incremental. Baby steps. Moving in the right direction. Still needing the bleach over & over.

      Like

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