In The Tangible Kingdom and Sacrilege, I spent quite a bit of time discussing how a disciple of Jesus must learn to live like he did, not just know things about His life. Our apprenticeship after him will push us toward a concept I call Whimsical Holiness.
Jesus’ Holiness Didn’t Condemn Sinners
Whimsical holiness is the ability to hold to personal values of Christ-likeness while being deeply integrated in relationship with people who do not hold your same convictions.
I didn’t pull this concept out of thin air. It came after a lengthy walk through the Gospels, where I noted Jesus’ ability to be perfectly holy while being a “friend of sinners.” Evangelicals often communicate a theology and practice of holiness based on avoidance of the world and worldly people. As a result, they subtly transmit a condemning message. Jesus however, gave us a picture of holiness that included hanging out with worldly people. How do we know for sure? People that feel condemned and judged by someone don’t usually follow them or call them ‘friends.’
Theologically-minded Christians must learn that we are free to make friends with humanity because Jesus paid for the sin of all humanity. Because he managed sin once and for all, we don’t have to micro-manage sin in others or be afraid of them.
Not only did Jesus take sin upon himself, he actually descended to the very depths of hell experiencing the very worst and deepest of all evil. He’s been to the darkest side of the tracks, and he didn’t switch to the other side. When he sees a bunch of hoodlums coming toward him, Jesus didn’t freak out!
While the Spirit does not rejoice, make light of, or disregard sin and unrighteousness, he also does not wring his hands in wide-eyed horror like a teenage girl at a scary movie. The God of our Scriptures, the Son whom he sent into the world, and his Spirit that ever pursues humanity, is not a puritan or prudish teetotaler. He is a Pursuer, a Redeemer, and an Advocate.
Jesus’ Holiness Took Him to the Heart of the Sinner
Whimsy? When Jesus made more wine for people who were already hammered drunk; when he purposefully neglected to remind his disciples to wash their hands correctly before eating; when he bent down and drew something in the tear-moistened dirt beneath the sex-addicted woman caught in adultery; when he ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, while being with all these people who were doing all these sinful things, he was holy.
Like a veteran skid row social worker that has seen it all and knows the back-story of dysfunction that is behind the brokenness, he deals with the whole person, not just the observable sinful patterns. Like a wise judge with years behind the bench, he’s able to cut through the B.S and get to the heart of the matter. Like a middle linebacker who unconsciously shirks aside 300-pound offenders coming at him, to get to the quarterback, Jesus shirks off sins to win the heart of the sinner. God has been to the brothels, the bars, and the back alleys of sin-city. Coming from the bottom floor of hell to the first floor of humanity isn’t a big deal for him.
What About Our Holiness?
And as the Father sent Jesus..he sends us!
This is the power of incarnation and the character of whimsical holiness every Christian must learn to clothe themselves with. Redemption, liberation, and sanctification are all dirty jobs. The dirtiest! And the call of following Christ is a jump into pain, hell, and disorientation of all kinds of sinful acts without an arrogant, finger-pointing sense of judgment.
People with Jesus’ whimsical holiness don’t gasp for air when someone curses. They don’t avoid a group of people, a place, or a party because someone might get out of hand. They do inhabit dark places with the intention of protecting, and redeeming, befriending and befuddling people with Jesus’ acceptance and love. They do win the lost because they’re hanging out with the lost.
Hugh Halter is the national director of Missio and pastor of Adullam in Denver Colorado. You can find out more about Hugh at his blog or follow his thoughts on Twitter. His previous writings includeThe Tangible Kingdom, And: The Gathered and Scattered Church, and The Tangible Kingdom Primer (Workbook).