"What is that on your eyes?" he asked me. And I can still see the quizzical look on his face as he said it. I remember even better the twinkle in his own eyes when he saw he had stumped me.
I don't remember how old I was, but I remember the moment like it was yesterday...well almost yesterday. Perhaps, I was about 15 or 16. We were standing in my grandpa's kitchen, and I had just started wearing mascara. His comment was intended to show his disapproval of my wearing make-up, but in a teasing, non-judgmental way. That was my grandpa. He loved to tease. And Grandpa was an old-fashioned holiness preacher. He was a man of strong convictions, but I don't remember him ever making me feel chastised, or judged for trying to cover my bare-naked eyes. Nor did I ever feel he judged me for anything else, for that matter.
"Get in a church that preaches holiness, Jan." he had told me one day. I also remember those words with eternal clarity. It was something he believed deeply. I recall taking them lightly; I wanted a church that focused on grace. But I never forgot his words. And as I grew in the Lord, as well as matured in age, I came to understand both grace and holiness were equally important and that they went hand-in-hand. (2 Timothy 1:9)
Now all these years later...well actually decades; four or five decades, probably....his words are more important than ever. Why? Because all these years later, the church has changed - and it has changed dramatically.
Grandpa knew something then, that I, as a youngster, had no inkling. And that is this:
Obedience is our safety net. Holiness ensures steadfastness and assurance. And both promote growth - individually and as a church. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-9) A sound church should teach both, because Scripture does.
"What one generation accepts in moderation, the next excuses in excess." I don't remember who said it. I put that quote on my refrigerator more than 20 years ago. I recognized it as something that was being manifested at the time. It seems it has played out 10 times over, since then.
Now - two or 3 generations later, (depending on ones scale) - we have slipped into acceptance of things my grandparents' generation and even my parents' generation would never understand to be Christian. Drinking was frowned upon by most Christians back then; living together out of wedlock was considered sin. The movies and television sit-com's on the mainstream channels today would leave my grandpa with his mouth hanging open, and tears in my grandma's eyes. Homosexuality was correctly placed under Ephesians 5:12. Swearing? Well if one did it, one certainly didn't do it in church, or even in front of others. Now, it is considered hip even if it is a pastor from the pulpit or a Christian author in their writings. People laugh at it while professing it is all ok, because they just happen to love Jesus more than anyone else. Well, and you know; love covers a multitude of sin. (Please note sarcasm and my apologies for it.)
And personally, it seems to me "selfishness" - lovers of self - abounds today; not only in the world, but in the church. We claim how much we love Jesus and are doing for the church while bragging up our ministry, or our calling. Maybe we really are called, (sometimes we are only following a trend) but I am pretty sure we are not called to place the focus on us.
Now days, the popular thought is basically act like the world, so we don't scare the world away. We are thought to be selfish if we don't consider others feelings before our own desires that we might have for our church. It is all about not condemning anyone. In all honesty, we are seeing a bit of manipulation of the old adage, "When in Rome do as the Romans do." Well yeah, that is probably wise...sometimes...in the world. (no sarcasm; perhaps a little attitude)
We certainly don't want to cast any judgment. You know: "Judge not, lest you be judged." (Matthew 7:1-3) But with no regard to "Live holy even as I am holy." 1 Peter 1: 15-17
New Mantra, Same Faith?
The new mantra is "missional living" speaking about how we must reach the lost. Well that is certainly true! That's a good thing! But it also always has been! And honestly, I believe there is an air of arrogance, that makes one feel like this new generation believes they are the only ones who have ever witnessed, or cared about missions and know how to live it. They obviously are not. And I would like to make clear, this is not an attack on the idea of missional living as it has been espoused in recent years. Yes, I do have disagreements with the social justice aspects of this movement, but my comments here are in regard to the fact that many promoting this lifestyle seem to think it is something brand new and no one has ever lived this way before. Quite simply, that is offensive to the saints of old and those who have always tried to fulfill the Great Commission without this new modern title, or any title at all for that matter. Simply google and read Wikipeida's definition of "missional living" then look at the names at the bottom of the article. Almost everyone of those names (the ones I recognize) are people that I would not only never support, but aggressively warn against. Though some of them have already fallen and lost their position, they have had a huge impact on the direction of the church today.
Where I believe the new generations error, is in their belief that we cannot reach unbelievers if we alienate them by our expectations of holiness. Preaching any do's and don'ts today is frowned upon even if it is to the church to try to promote spiritual growth!
But the truth is, the lost want to see something different from those who profess Christ. Even unbelievers do not want to see Christians act like the world. They do not want Christians to have the same actions as the world; to behave and think in the same way. To say differently, is a new message within Christian circles, not the old, timeless one. Through the decades, I have been around enough to observe that fact. I have discerned feelings and witnessed enough to people to understand holiness is attractive to them, and expected. Living life as they do, is not.
And more, there is an attempt within certain segments of the church to change the meaning of the verses about holiness. Or we oversimplify it by "cheapening grace" - as my dad used to say. " As one example, Richard Stearns attacks conservative Christians throughout his book The Hole in Our Gospel while changing the meaning of Biblical holiness. We love to say: "God's holiness is our holiness. In Christ, we are already holy." And that is absolutely true, thanks to His great sacrifice, but some have carried grace so far, that there is no notable change in attitude or behavior. We are Christians. We bare His name; but sometimes we try to carry that name while dragging it through the mud. Why would we want to do that? We are to be holy, for His names sake. (Psalm 23:3; Psalm 143:11)
Where is Reverence?
So did I learn from Grandpa? Oh my goodness! His words are life to me. And that is due to the fact he was faithful to the One whom he served. Holiness? Grandpa lived it and he lived it without judgment, or making anyone uncomfortable. It can be done. We don't need to live like the world in order to draw others into the Kingdom. My grandparents did it and they did it well. My parents did it. Is it a generational thing? Well again, that's where this quote comes into play. "What one generation accepts in moderation, the next excuses in excess." We, Christian, are in decline, whether anyone wants to admit it, or not.
Feeling a little bare-naked here. When we address something like this, we will be scrutinized by many. And before anyone judges me for judging, do I live a life of holiness? I struggle. Pretty sure we all do and we all always have. But I have a much better understanding today, of what my grandpa meant when he said "Get in a church that preaches holiness, Jan." Sometimes now I feel like it is too late; sometimes it feels like there aren't any, although I do feel like I have found a good balance in my home church.
I still don't go anywhere without my mascara. I cannot stand to have anyone see me with my bare-naked eyes. But maybe it is not out of selfishness; maybe it isn't even out of vanity. Just maybe I am actually thinking of others. Because I sure wouldn't want to scare the world away with bare-naked eyes. :-) (Please note attempt at humor.) Now maybe this is an example of why we shouldn't judge. We really don't know why someone does something, do we? We really don't know what is in someone's heart. But we are to discern; we are to correct and build each other up. (2 Timothy 4:2 amid a myriad of other verses)
Peter 1:13-17 (KJV)
13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
And really for all the questions, disputes and wonderings about holiness and why we are to be holy, it is really very simple: "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. Sometimes we don't need to ask why. Sometimes, we don't get to. That is an important lesson for all of us to learn, because sometimes there are a whole lot of questions and wondering this side of heaven that we don't get to know the answer. Sometimes we should just obey...because it is written. And that is where trust comes in to play.
And finally, "...pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:" (i.e. reverence, respect). Sometimes, I am afraid we have forgotten that part.