Holiness vs. Hygiene

“My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene.” [John 13:10b MSG]

I was reading the Scriptures this morning and I’m headed through the gospel of John. At this point, Jesus has just filled a basin with water and put his apron on to wash the disciples’ feet. This quote from the Message doesn’t actually appear in the other versions that I translated it into, so I’m not sure about the absoluteness of what it says. However, even as a line from Eugene Peterson’s own God-inspired mind, I think this idea of holiness versus hygiene is a rather interesting comparison.

How many times do I try to get clean by washing the outside of me? I’m not referring to taking a shower–I do that fairly frequently–this is more a spiritual sense of cleansing. I’m an actions driven kind of person, so mostly when I feel distant from God because of my sin, I’ll try to do more to make myself feel cleaner. I’m trying in my own strength to be holy.

God desires us to be holy, like Him. But holiness cannot be self-proclaimed if it is genuine. The state of holiness that God expects His followers to possess can only come from God Himself. I read earlier this month that God wants a change to happen in us so much that he died so that we could be changed. The answer to changing though lies in letting Him change you. Keyword: letting.

Synonyms for let: allow, accept, consent, allocate, give, comply, be game for, enter into, give the go-ahead, give the green light, go along with, grant, permit, play ball, subscribe, throw in the towel, yield

Antonyms for let: reject, deny, refuse, protest, hold, keep

I think the words that stand out the most in that list are “throw in the towel” and “hold.” The concept of throwing in the towel is a boxing term. When a boxer decides he is done with the fight, he stands in his corner and throws in his towel indicating the conceding of the fight. What a parallel to what I have to do in my own life! Give up the fight alone. This world is too strong, it throws too many powerful punches for me to get in the ring without God. Let him change me.

Hold. This word gives me a great mental picture of what it’s like when I don’t allow God to shape and change me. When I hold tightly to  my life and don’t allow Jesus to change me, I’m spiritually bottle-necked. Not much comes in, and what’s worse, not much is flowing out either. Ain’t nothin’ gonna make it better unless God comes and takes the blockage away. The key to coercing Him to do that: let go.

In the end, it’s not about how clean I can get myself. I will continue to sin and have messed up tendencies until I die. It’s got to be about giving God the green light into my life. That’s the only way any of us will see even a scrap of holiness in our own life this side of heaven.

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