This post is part 3 in a series based on the Renovare organization’s covenant and “best practices” – which are six Common Disciplines drawn from the six Traditions of Christianity explored in Richard Foster’s book, Streams of Living Water. (Find earlier posts in the Categories list in the right margin menu on the blog home page home page under Continual Renewal).
Common Discipline #2: By God’s grace, I will strive mightily against sin and will do deeds of love and mercy. (The Holiness Tradition)
Holiness. It’s a scary word! And the Holiness Tradition has been a difficult tradition. The traditional meaning for the Hebrew word for holiness is “set apart” or “dedicated” to God. But some church leaders throughout the centuries have focused on a secondary connotation of gadosh or hagios: moral purity. (Joel Scandretti in CT, Feb. 12, 2012.) These religious leaders, (including the Pharisees in the time of Jesus), struck fear in the hearts of believers by insisting that perfect obedience to “the law” and to the church’s rituals and traditions is a standard they will be judged against. Sins against purity (especially sexual purity) were (and still are) viewed as most egregious by some – even today.
Joel Scandretti says that “prior to any consideration of morality, biblical holiness describes a unique relationship that God has established and desires with his people. This relationship has moral ramifications, but it precedes moral behavior. Before we are ever called to be good, we are called to be holy. Unless we rightly understand and affirm the primacy of this relationship, we fall into the inevitable trap of reducing holiness to mere morality.”And Richard Rohr recently posited that “what we call sins are usually more symptoms of sin. Sin is primarily living outside of union; it is a state of separation”(Daily Meditation, September 19).
This Common Discipline from the Holiness tradition focuses on two tracks: things I will try not to do (sin) and things that I will try to do (love). Both of these mindsets will grow us in to people who have God’s moral standards and “love like God loves.” Jonathan Bailey calls this holiness journey “becoming an artisan of love.” He goes on to remind us that:
An artisan is someone who is highly skilled at creating, someone who has a personal knowledge and mastery of their craft. Becoming an artisan requires an intimate apprenticeship over many years. During this process, it’s not just information that’s imparted from master to apprentice, but his mindset, attitudes, habits, and ultimately character. The goal is not just to become an apprentice, the goal is to become an artisan”(jonathanrbailey.com.)
“Striving mightily against sin” to sin means making daily choices to feel and act the way Jesus felt and acted. Doing deeds of love and mercy requires an intense focus on our motivations and desires so we can make the best choices. I find it easier to not experience the “symptoms of sin” (as Rohr describes our bad behaviors) when I remember daily who I want to be. When I am focused on being like Jesus, I will have less need to criticize my husband. When I am focused on not criticizing my husband, I will act more like Jesus. My goal will be to become an artisan of love.