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What is holiness?

I’m reading in Leviticus, which can be alternately mind-numbing and fascinating, and found myself wading through the “laws of holiness” as my CSB Bible describes it in chapter 19. The people of God were to be holy, or set apart, because God is holy. He is distinct from all else that exists and His people are supposed to reflect that in how they live. 

What do you imagine when you think of holiness? Grab that thought or picture or list.

Here is what God described as holiness:

-respecting parents
-keeping the sabbath
-not making idols
-following the laws of sacrifice
-leaving part of harvest for the poor to glean
-treating people properly (no oppression or robbery or taking advantage of)
-practicing justice in court
-guarding one’s words about others
-refusing to harbor hatred or take revenge
-loving one’s neighbor

This is not even the whole chapter, but it’s easy to see that holiness was communal. Holiness describes how we live with other people. It was practiced in fellowship with God and with one’s neighbors. Holiness is not an individualized, “here-am-I,” please notice all these rules I keep that I made up. Instead holiness was keeping one’s worship only for God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. 

Holiness is vibrant; it’s an overflow, not a lack. It’s insisting there’s a different way to be human than what we are told. 

It might be worth a few moments of time to write down what you think holiness is and then compare it to Leviticus 19. How we can adjust our understanding of holiness in thought and practice? 

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