What Does It Mean to Be “Holy”?
TO BE “holy” means to be clean or pure in word and action. It means to measure up to the divine standard of what is right and proper. It means freedom from corruption in a moral way.
The apostle Peter wrote the following as to why God’s servants should be holy: “In accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’”—1 Pet. 1:15, 16.
Yes, Jehovah God is holy—clean or pure—in the ultimate sense. He is the “Holy One.” Mighty spirit creatures, seraphs, are portrayed in the Scriptures as declaring: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of armies.” (Isa. 6:3) The foremost of his sons, Jesus Christ, addressed him as “Holy Father.” (John 17:11) Rightly, then, all who profess to be his servants should strive to maintain purity in all their conduct. What does this involve?
To answer this question, we might examine more closely the statement, “You must be holy, because I am holy.” The apostle Peter quoted it from the Mosaic law. There, in Leviticus 19, verse 2, the statement appears in a setting that outlines God’s requirements for conducting, not just sacred activities, but the daily affairs of life.
For example, we find the command: “You should fear each one his mother and his father.” (Lev. 19:3) Wholesome regard or respect for parents is essential for the preservation of the peace and harmony of a people. This is so because strong families constitute a solid foundation for a united society. Disrespect for parents, on the other hand, leads to disunity and is entirely contrary to what should be expected of a people who reverence Jehovah God.
One would also expect a clean or pure people to show respect for the laws of the land, in line with Jesus’ instruction to “pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar.” (Luke 20:25) Thus Christians would be conscientious in paying taxes. They would not flout traffic laws, for example, exceeding the speed limit for “thrills” when there is no police officer around. They should be honest in all their dealings. Among them there should be no deception, fraud, stealing or lying. To become involved in any of these things would be a failure to reflect God’s holiness. Such things are also forbidden by God’s law.—Lev. 19:11-13.
Showing consideration for the handicapped is yet another way in which to be ‘holy as Jehovah God is holy.’ His Law states: “You must not call down evil upon a deaf man, and before a blind man you must not put an obstacle.”—Lev. 19:14.
The person who ridiculed or called down evil upon a deaf person would certainly be manifesting a heartless attitude. The deaf individual would be at the mercy of others’ degrading talk, unable to defend himself against statements that he could not hear. Also, it would be a hateful thing, totally contrary to God’s merciful ways, for a person to put an obstacle in the way of a blind person, causing him to fall.
The foregoing are but a few of the many areas of life in which Jehovah God required that his ancient covenant people, Israel, be holy. The apostle Peter’s application of the statement first made to the ancient Israelites shows that Christians, too, should conduct themselves in a clean or pure way. For the Christian, no aspect of life is exempt from the divine requirement of holiness.
So, if we want to be holy from God’s standpoint, we must first grow in our knowledge of him. We need to understand what he approves or disapproves, and why. This calls for careful study of the Scriptures. Then we must live in harmony with accurate knowledge.
The disciple James made a strong point of this, saying: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning.”—Jas. 1:22.
Attendance at Christian meetings and listening respectfully to what is said are not enough to make a person holy. A person could actually deceive himself into thinking that doing these things is, basically, all that is required of him as a Christian. But not so. We need to examine ourselves carefully in the light of the Scriptures, checking whether we are measuring up to God’s standard of holiness. Then, when we see areas of life wherein we fall short, we should concentrate on making improvement.
This matter of being holy, clean or pure is not burdensome. It is an expression of our love for God. (1 John 5:3) We are called upon to share wholeheartedly in the fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “Also, in all the nations the good news has to be preached first.”—Mark 13:10.
Conformity to God’s standard of holiness is the way to enjoy life to the fullest, for man was created so that he might reflect God’s image. (Gen. 1:26) Whenever humans fail to display God’s admirable qualities in their life, they bring harm to themselves and to others. But the person who heeds the Scriptures will be happy.—Jas. 1:25.
If you desire this happiness, take time to study God’s Word and then apply it to all facets of your life. Learn by experience that being holy, pure or clean from God’s standpoint is truly the best way to live. Also, be diligent in helping others to live in harmony with the Bible.
[Pictures on page 30]
How can I help the handicapped?
Do I obey the law?