"O merciful God, forgive us for all the things we have done and left undone."
I've tried to replicate the angels. A week in 2011 most of my prayer time was spent just proclaiming God's holiness. It felt like I was being righteous, pure, and, well... holy. There's a problem: My interpretation of holiness was actually wicked, and the more I proclaimed the holiness of God, the less I liked God.
I've tried to live out the command to "be holy as God is holy." Although I liked the feeling this gave me, I couldn't quite call it holiness. I wouldn't watch R rated movies or listen to explicit music, and I only said bad words when I stubbed my toe, which was followed by quick repentance and a confession of my (completely contrived) contrite heart. I must admit, my favorite part of being holy was getting to talk about all the people who weren't as holy as me. Many of my conversations with my fellow holy people would start with, "We really need to pray for (insert friend I totally screwed over). They went and saw that new Seth Rogen movie in the theaters, so they couldn't even fast forward through nudity, I think they stifled the Holy Spirit." My heart would "break" upon receiving the juicy news of people sleeping together before marriage and smoking pot. It's interesting how my broken heart also lead to such a feeling of superiority.
Meanwhile, one would only need to take a look at my internet search history to see that I wasn't as holy as I insisted I was.
I got tired of being an ass-hat to perfectly good people just because I perceived their choices as being immoral. I thought I was done with holiness, and then I reread the Gospels, and my life was ruined forever. Warning, no other written word has the propensity to absolutely destroy you like the Gospels. I'd read them many times before this, but this time made it seem like I'd only ever read them with scales on my eyes. I read the Gospels and holiness was revealed to me.
I read about Jesus, who was supposedly the most holy man of all time, and I realized the way he taught and modeled holiness didn't match up at all with what I was taught. Jesus fit no common or current definition of holiness within his time or his group... And, after having been in church for 23 years at the time, I realized he didn't fit mine or my cultures definition of holiness either.
I realized that the interpretation of holiness I had been given was a projection of the Western mans interpretation of righteousness. We projected that holiness meant saying the correct thing, being with the purest people (avoiding those pesky stumbling blocks), and abstaining the big bad sins (mostly porn, drugs, alcohol, murder, premarital sex and not getting caught lying or stealing, but oddly enough non of the sins Jesus actually said was punishable by hell).
The holiness of Christ didn't seem all that concerned with any of these things. The holiness of Christ is a projectile that smashes our projections and set them straight.
I realized holiness didn't look like staying away from R rated movies; nor did it look like casting stones at people who made life choices I didn't agree with. All of the sudden, it felt very possible to be holy as Christ was holy... not just possible, but necessary. It's almost like participating in the holiness of Christ is to participate in God's plan to restore creation to himself, it is to participate in heaven invading earth, it is to see the perfect Shalom of God, in some small way, reenacted.
What do I perceive the holiness of Christ to be?
Holiness is: Taking care of the poor, the widowed and the orphaned. It's giving to people who could never pay you back, and never expecting them to. It's caring for creation. It's responding to hate with love. It's turning the other cheek and going the extra mile to bless your enemies. Holiness is love.
Because God is holy and God is love; holiness is, just like Jesus, the incarnation of love. When we go and be holy as Christ is holy, we help to save the world.
Recommended song: Now and At The Hour by The Brilliance
"But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the scriptures say 'Be holy as I am holy.' "
1 Peter 1:15-16