“A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.”
I love the illustration used by Stephen Covey in his book First Things First of climbing the ladder of success. He says:
“Some of us feel empty. We’ve defined happiness solely in terms of professional or financial achievement, and we find that our “success” did not bring us the satisfaction we thought it would. We’ve painstakingly climbed the “ladder of success” rung by rung – the diploma, the late nights, the promotions – only to discover as we reached the top rung that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. Absorbed in the ascent, we’ve left a trail of shattered relationships or missed moments of deep, rich living in the wake of intense, over focused effort. In our race up the rungs, we simply did not take the time to do what really mattered most.”
We have died for something that was not true.
I think an appropriate definition of holiness brings clarity to the wall decision – which wall is my ladder leaning against?
Holiness is typically a bad word. We have used it primarily to describe stuff shirts who are judgmental, narrow and mostly hypocritical. Arrogant self righteousness is not the biblical definition of holy (in fact, self righteousness is only available to God. God is holy in and of himself. His holiness is inherent to His character). The other way we have defined holiness is in the negative: Holy means that we don’t do certain things or that we avoid certain sinful behaviors. Both of these definitions fall short.
It is much more beneficial and accurate to define holiness in the positive. God is holy. He is pure, genuine, set apart. Positive holiness is a much better arena for definition. Holiness is what we do, not what we don’t do. Since God is holy, his children are expected to be holy. Holiness is faith expressed in the present. Holiness is climbing the ladder of godliness, being like God.
Everyone wants to get better and better in life. We climb the ladder of “betterness.” We don’t agree on what that “betterness” is, but we all pursue a concept of “betterness.” We might want to be better at pleasure, success, recreation, the list is endless. “Betterness” may be the wall our ladder is on. Holiness tells us that there is a pure ideal of life. Holiness tells us what is the highest expression of life. Holiness defines for us what it is to be alive. The right wall is the wall of being like God, because He created all things, and the better things are the more like God’s ideal they are.
God created us for pleasure, success, fulfillment, life. We are all dying for something. Best that we die for what is true and lasting. Jesus said, I did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. He came to bring abundant and eternal life. Those are not words of restriction, rather they are words of expansion. As long as you believe that God wants to squelch your expression and fulfillment, you will never lean your ladder on the wall of godliness.