But you see, holiness is really a continuum.
Yes, we know that we are made righteous through the finished work of Christ, and that His blood has covered all our sins, making us holy in His eyes. But that's the end game. That's the final judgement. In this life, in this plane of existence, we're not there yet. The Bible says "be holy as He is holy." (I Peter 1: 14 - 16) If we are already holy, that wouldn't be an instruction. It would be a statement: You are holy as He is holy.
It says be. That implies becoming.
It means that we live a continuum between holy and sinful, somewhere between saint and sinner, neither one or the other; both at the same time. Our religious binary says that it cannot be so. It tells us that you can only either be a saint or a sinner, good or bad; you cannot be both.
And yet we are.
Because even as we succeed day by day, we also fail day by day to live up to God's standards and that is the struggle, the battle that we have to live in. At this point of time, in this very second, you could probably say to yourself, "as far as you know, I'm living right. I'm in the perfect will of God." And yet ten years from now, if you're still alive, the likelihood is that you'll probably look back on this very moment and say, "Oh God, how wrong I was! I was such a sinner."
Because we are still becoming. We're on a journey. We are not there yet.
The problem is that we cannot accept this truth. So we turn away people who are struggling more than us, with sins more obvious or "awful" (in our eyes) than ours, saying that they cannot join the club until they've turned away from their sin. Except that the only way they can fully turn away from the sin that plagues them is through the grace of God poured out in their lives and experienced in the body of Christ, where they are given worth.
And there is that excuse, of course: I'm only human.
Of course you're only human. That's what God made you to be. You'll be susceptible because of the fall. You'll make mistakes. You'll change your mind. You'll fall over and over again. You'll get into messes and blame everyone and everything around you. You'll have raw instincts that move you to aggression and hate and lust. You can always claim, "I was born this way. I don't know any better!"
And yet the truth, oh the beautiful truth of this remains: You are human.
You have a choice. You don't need to give in to your baser instincts, though sometimes you will. You don't need to follow whatever the world tells you you are. Because you are a rational being with free will, and as freely as you can decide to do wrong, or to continue living where you are, you can just as freely decide to live one day better, live one day a little more righteous, live one day with a higher expectation of yourself. And even if you fail on that day, you can decide to live that way again the next day, with the full grace of God covering you, until one day you realise that you've won that battle.
And that is the grace the church needs to extend.
Not a political correctness that says "It's alright to live in sin. We welcome you anyway."
Not a righteousness that says, "We can't accept you because you're gay/you don't live right/we don't like your lifestyle."
Not a permissiveness that says, "Look, come in anyway, and you can do whatever you want in the church."
But a church that looks with love and says, "You know that we hold these standards. We understand that you struggle. Let's struggle together and see if we don't come up on top of it. Because while God is holy, he is also merciful. And the grace and forgiveness He has extended will continue to cover you, even as you come to know Him. And we believe that as you come to know Him more, you will be changed by Him, and your battles will no longer be your demons, but your victory grounds."
Because that is where we all live, regardless of our sin.
In the continuum of sin and holiness.
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