Holiness in balance

By Not Known

Among Christian people, we have a fairly clear sense of moral values. These values reflect God’s character and are derived from the Bible. Christians sometimes differ on how the Biblical teaching applies to different moral issues of our day, but the underlying principles are clear. We are to: be holy for I am holy (Lev 11:44) and to be imitators of God (Eph 5:1) and again: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect (Mt 5:48).

What do we do when we meet actions that fail God’s standards? To put it another way: what do we do when we see a gap between the ideal and the actual? Zeal for holiness can lead Christians to stern measures that leave little room for forgiveness, change and a fresh start. On the other hand, a mistaken zeal for grace may lead to a permissive licence in which there are no real standards. Neither of these paths is helpful.

The Bible tells of a meeting between Jesus and an adulterous woman
(Jn 7:53 – 8:11). The meeting ends with Jesus showing a balance between holiness and grace: he refused to join the rush to condemn the woman and stone her to death. But he also called her to a changed life in which there was to be no more sin. Holiness and grace are side by side.

All of this is well summarised in some words of Paul: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. It goes without saying that we are often selective in applying this list to the sins of our day! But read on and hear the word of grace: But such some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:9-11). Holiness and grace are again side-by-side.

The gospel calls us to confess and repent of sin rather than hide it. But, it also announces forgiveness for those who do confess and repent (1 Jn 1:5 – 2:6). This is genuine good news and a fine balance of grace and holiness.

Lord, I find it easy to see the sins of others but am easily blinded to my own. Please help me to see my sin, to confess it and then turn from it. Thank you for giving Jesus to bring forgiveness to me and for giving the Holy Spirit so that I can be holy as you are holy.