“As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct.” (1 Peter 1:15)
At any other time in the church year, we might find this exhortation intimidating. There’s no way I can be as holy as Jesus, certainly not in every single thing I do! It’s just not humanly possible, no matter how pure my intentions and strong my willpower. I can’t possibly eliminate selfishness from my nature. I can’t love the way God loves.
True enough. This is the humble place we all occupy as a fallen race of sinners. This is the starting point for each and every one of us, and we are wise to have it in the forefront of our memories.
However, two days after the great Feast of Pentecost, we hear these words with different ears. God has already poured out his Spirit to transform us. That Spirit turned twelve timid people into eager evangelists willing to go wherever God sent them. They even became willing to sacrifice their lives if God granted them the privilege of following in his Son’s steps!
That Spirit took people who spoke different languages, came from different cultures, and lived in different degrees of wealth and poverty, and knit them into a close community one in heart and mind, holding everything in common (Acts 4:32).
This is the Spirit who was poured into our hearts at baptism—the same Spirit who still lives in us, eager to fill us with his grace and shape us into Christ’s image.
Holiness is not an impossible task set before us, a distant vision that lies far beyond our reach. No, it’s a gift poured into our hearts by a gracious and merciful God. In fact, holiness is a Person, the Spirit of a committed friend who once was dead but now lives. By the gift of baptism, that holiness, that Person, now dwells in us. Rather than an occasion for anxiety or fear, the call to holiness is a call to rejoice—and a call to embrace the One who can make us holy as he is holy.
“Holy Spirit, I praise your name. I set my hope on the grace you poured into my heart at baptism. Come, Spirit, and clothe me in the holiness of Christ!”