My associate pastor and I were traveling together today. He told me that he likes the term pastor. The term preacher has a negative connotation today. (“Don’t preach to me” or “Are we going to hear another sermon again” said outside of a church context.) He told me though that Reverend sounds too holy and impersonal.
Now this is a godly man here we’re talking about. I don’t want to give the wrong idea. He took his whole day to help me with something. I’m very grateful to him for that, but I also have to confess I’ve had the same kind of thought before. Why do we see holiness as impersonal and often boring?
Sadly, my first thought of holiness is someone who spends all their time in prayer and Bible study and walks around with a holier-than-thou attitude and never will crack a smile or laugh ever. That is not an accurate representation. I’ll give you that. It is a representation though and it is not enjoyable. Holiness has been made to be unappealing. It has been made to seem that if you are in the will of God, your life will be miserable.
However, what if holiness is truly boring and impersonal? What will that mean. The conclusion is that God is boring and impersonal. Now I’m not saying God is either, but we’ve effectively made him such many times in the church today. We don’t view our life with God as active usually. It’s more of a passive thing that’s just going on. It has become a habit. We live in an age where the new is the best and if there isn’t a constant flux of new, we lose interest.
What has made this such? I believe much of it is our modern world twisting our view. Biblical movies are usually quite boring for instance. Jesus never really cracks a smile even and everyone walks around and speaks in a monotone. How many times do we think about Jesus laughing for instance or Jesus as funny?
In reality, these things should be enjoyable. When I exegeted a text recently where I disagreed with the pastor, I enjoyed it. When friends and I discussed the star of Bethlehem or the meaning of Seraphim, I enjoyed it. When a co-worker and I started talking about the dates of the gospels and the worldview of Carl Sagan, I enjoyed it.
Yet somehow, it seems we approach these things as unenjoyable.
Could it also be our view of the Puritans? We see them as the holy people in history and we usually picture them as boring people. From what I’ve heard though, they were not. Yet somehow, we have pictured them as such. (We have a lot of crazy views about the ancients, like how they thought that the Earth was flat. That’s a myth as well.)
Honestly then, could it be we’re not holy because we fear that it will make us not enjoy life. The reverse is the case. Holiness will help us to enjoy life. The greatest pleasure seeker of all is God. He created everything as an act of joy and love. (Surely he did not do it as an act of misery.) If he is, then we should see that he is holy and loves all that is good, including true pleasure, far more than we do.
Holiness. It’s a joy and a treasure. Let’s start seeing it that way.