In The Tangible Kingdom and Sacrilege, I spent quite a bit of time discussing how a disciple of Jesus must learn to live like He did, not just know things about His life. Our apprenticeship after Him will push us toward a concept I call “whimsical holiness.”
First, let me give a basic definition: Whimsical holiness is the ability to hold to personal values of Christ-likeness while being deeply integrated in relationship with people who do not hold your same convictions.
I didn’t pull this concept out of thin air. It came after a lengthy walk through the Gospels noting Jesus’ ability to be perfectly holy while being a “friend of sinners.” Evangelicals often communicate a subtle theology and practice of holiness based on avoiding the world and worldly people. Jesus however, gave us a picture and definition of holiness that included being in the world. How do we know for sure? People who feel condemned and judged by someone don’t usually keep following him; nor would they call him “friend.”
Theologically, Christians must learn that we are free to make friends with humanity because Jesus paid for the sin of all humanity. Because He managed it once and for all, we no longer have to micro-manage it or be afraid of it.
Not only did Jesus take sin upon Himself, He descended to the very depths of hell, experiencing the very worst and deepest of all evil. He’s been to the darkest side of the tracks and doesn’t switch to the other side of the road when He sees a bunch of hoodlums coming toward Him. Jesus wasn’t freaked out by sin or sinners!
While the Spirit does not rejoice, make light of, or disregard sin and unrighteousness, He is also not wringing his hands or staring wide-eyed and horrified like a young teen at a scary movie. The God of our Scriptures, the Son whom He sent into the world, and His Spirit that ever pursues humanity, is not a puritan or prudish teetotaler. He is a pursuer, a redeemer, and an advocate.
When Jesus made more wine for people who had already been drinking all night. When He purposefully neglected to remind His disciples to wash their hands correctly before eating. When He bent down and drew in the tear-moistened dirt beneath the woman caught in adultery. When He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. And yes, while being with all these people who were doing all these sinful things, He was holy.
Like a veteran skid row social worker who has seen it all and knows the back-story of dysfunction behind the brokenness, Jesus deals with the whole person, not just the observable sinful patterns. Like a wise judge with years behind the bench, He’s able to cut through the B.S. and get to the heart of the matter. Like a middle linebacker who unconsciously shirks aside 300-pound offenders coming at him to get to the quarterback, Jesus shirks off sins to win the heart of the sinner. God has been to the brothels, the bars, and the back alleys of sin-city; coming from the bottom floor of hell to the first floor of humanity isn’t a big deal for Him.
And as the Father sent Jesus…He sends us!
This is the power of incarnation and the character of whimsical holiness every Christian must learn to clothe themselves with. Redemption, liberation, and sanctification are all dirty jobs. The dirtiest! And the call of following Christ is a jump into pain, hell, and disorientation of all kinds of sinful acts without an arrogant, finger-pointing sense of judgment.
People with Jesus’ whimsical holiness don’t gasp for air when someone curses—they don’t avoid a group of people, a place, or a party because someone might get out of hand. They do inhabit dark places with the intention of protecting, redeeming, befriending, and befuddling people with acceptance and love. And they do win the lost because they’re the only ones who’ll hang out with them.
Author of FLESH and newly released Brimstone