Do we apologize for holiness?
Tonight I'm preaching on the subject of evangelism, using the church in Thessalonica as an example. One of the reasons their testimony was effective was because of their God-given holiness, a Christ-likeness that made them stand out.
First, if statistics can be trusted (1 part statistics, 3 pinches of salt), the American church is, at best, only slightly more Christlike than the rest of the country - a situation that calls only for shame and repentance.
Second, many Christians whose lives are holier than their unbelieving neighbors often fall prey to the silent attack of the tolerance dogma. Because we feel that even our holy lives are a silent indictment against those who would choose to get blitzed or toasted every weekend, we often neglect to show forth our holiness. Not that we show our holiness with any pride, but people must see Christians as different. So, when the guy in the next cubicle speaks about his upcoming barroom conquests, we ought not to be silent - we ought to publicly thank God that He delivered us from such a vacuous life. God's holiness in the lives of His saints is an indictment against the world - an indictment, however, that is only part of the gospel of life.
Third, I'm beginning to think that many Christians feel the need to "hide" their holiness among other believers. If you have been delivered from needing to work on the Sabbath, if you have been delivered from pointless hours of television stupor or the drive to see every latest movie - don't hide it just because I might be offended. The Thessalonians learned holiness from the example of Paul and Silas; then they became examples themselves. Maybe I need your example, your testimony to spur me on to holiness.
Fourth, when we speak of our (hopefully Biblical) convictions, let us do so with great grace and warmth in our speech. Your convictions will be much more palatable, thus helpful, to me if they come in the form of testimony rather than outright challenge; they will be convicting to me if I see you rejoicing in the freedom of holiness rather than trying to find company for your new misery.
Finally, let's remember that our current standards of practice (which none of us hold to with any degree of perfection) do perhaps veer into the supra-Biblical category. If you have thrown out your TV because you desire increased purity in your home, great. I'd love to hear about it. But if your mission is to get me to throw out my TV (rather than to get me to love purity more), be careful how you talk.
So those are some random thoughts on holiness among God's people. This is really on my heart these days; I pray that God will see fit to make our local church a bright light of progressing-holiness. That we would be concerned first with God's glory rather than homogeneity, that we would find those among us to imitate and we each would one day be worthy of imitation. Again, this stuff is on my heart; I long for more holiness in my life and in our church. And I don't want to hide it when it comes.