Leviticus 19:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy."
So does God give commands that are impossible to keep? This question tends to come up whenever this verse in Leviticus is discussed. How are we supposed to be holy, for crying out loud?! And even if you understand that holy, as it relates to us humans, does not mean perfect, rather it means to be set apart for God's purposes and God's use, it is still a daunting command to have to keep.
Here is where grace steps in. When you and I come to faith in Christ, we receive and experience grace primarily as forgiveness of our sins. But once we are in the community of faith and understand ourselves to be a people set apart for God, we then receive and experience grace primarily as the power to live a God-honoring, sanctified (set apart) life. Grace empowers us to live in a way we could never hope to live otherwise.
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley called this sanctification process, "going on to perfection." By that, he meant we would grow and mature to become perfected in love, not mistake-free human beings incapable of error. Instead grace makes it possible to make every act, every conversation, every relationship, one that is marked by love. Grace also gives us the wisdom to understand what love really is and what it is not.
Of course we will not always get it right. And grace meets us there as well to pick us up, forgive us and set us back on the journey toward becoming fully set apart for God. For those who set their hearts and minds to this, God is the producer of wave after wave of opportunities for us who would ride those waves toward our goal. As Rick Warren says, when we botch it and blow it and fall off the wave, God sends another and then another. He is like a wave machine. And this is what we call, grace!
So when you come across a verse that says we are to be holy as God is holy, this is not something that God has thrown out there without also giving us provision for actually doing it. But we have to lean into grace.. You and I do not have the resources on our own or within ourselves to do this. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the grace of God made available to us in Jesus, we can do this, and we must. To move through this life as agents of grace and love, serving as ambassadors for a a greater kingdom is what we were created for.
So may you be holy as your heavenly Father is holy. May you surrender the effort to be good on your own, and lean into the grace that is yours in Jesus Christ. May you then become more and more perfected in love. And as you do, may your life and all of its days be a blessing to this world, and the people God loves and longs to redeem.