Saturday, February 6, 2016

Encountering Holiness

Last week the gospel was Luke 4 and we saw how the people of Nazareth responded to Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. They tried to throw him off a cliff. This week the gospel is Luke 5 and we see Peter's response. Peter asks Jesus to depart from him because he is a sinful man. Even in the first reading Isaiah talks about being doomed because he is a man of unclean lips and has encountered true holiness.

What these people all have in common is they get it. They know two things. They know God is holy and they are not. They were not bad people by today's standards. They were all quite religious and did not have any hidden sin that is mentioned. Yet they had God at a distance. At least they thought they did. Yet God drew close to them. God does that. That is the gospel. God comes to earth. We don't go up to heaven. 

When God arrives we have two choices. We can shoot the messenger or we can beg for mercy. That is why they wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff. People can't encounter God's truth and be unmoved by it. We tend to water down that truth and try to make it inoffensive. Yet it has to offend. Jesus offended often.

Isaiah and Peter respond to their encounters by pointing out the impossibility of it. I can't stand in the presence of God. My sin will surely become know and it will be Game Over for me. Their response is sorrow rather than anger. It reminds me of Mary's response in Luke 1:34. How can it be since I am a virgin? In the minds of Peter and Isaiah, God having a relationship with them was just as impossible as a virgin giving birth. They were right. Realizing this is an important first step in their walk with God.

Walking with God is a life with deep peace and great joy. Yet it is also full of very uncomfortable encounters like the ones described here. The anger of the people of Nazareth is not out of the question. We will want to throw Jesus off a cliff many times. We should find ourselves telling God often that we are not near holy enough to do what He is asking. That is what a healthy, growing relationship with God works. 

The trouble is we don't just water down the gospel for those unchurched folks who might react badly. We water it down for ourselves. To keep God at a safe distance. We end up stuck in a spiritual rut. It is called sloth. Where we don't react strongly to any spiritual inputs. It is one of the seven deadly sins and for good reason. It can kill our walk with God and Yes it can land us in hell.

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