My husband Roger and I are setting out on a new adventure. We’ve been married long enough to have faced many challenges together: We’ve raised two sons, we’ve become in-laws, we’ve gone through job changes and starting businesses, we’ve bought homes and even survived the remodeling.
But now we face a different challenge: We’re taking a course together. And not just any course, either—a course on holiness.
Let’s let the implications of that sink in for a moment.
First, of course, are the potential pitfalls for our marriage. “Honey, I believe the right, just and holy thing for you to do right now would be to share that brownie.” “Dear, do you really think John Wesley would put off taking out the trash?” It could be a nightmare!
Fortunately, I’m married to an actual saint, so those things aren’t really a problem. But looking further …
The course is called “Exploring Christian Holiness.” It’s an exploration of Christian holiness that traces the growth of this doctrine and focuses on holiness in personal experience, interpersonal relationships, and doctrinal preaching.
This brings with it, as you can imagine, some tremors of soul. Obviously, there’s quite a bit of pressure involved. Specifically, what if I don’t do well in class? It does no good to reflect on any previous academic success at college; this time there’s more at stake.
What happens if I flunk a class on holiness?
Am I automatically placed on small group probation? Are my worship team privileges revoked? Does someone start to screen the snacks I bring for the preschoolers? Do I get kicked out of church altogether, forced to spend Sunday mornings sleeping in?
And what about the 12-week class term? Are there dire repercussions if I’m caught doing anything deemed “non-holy” during that time? I’m hoping there’s an established system of demerits so I know where I stand. For instance, I enjoy music from the 30s through the 50s. Can I still listen to Louis Armstrong? And would that be worth more or fewer demerits than listening to, say, the Rat Pack? What if I were caught watching something scandalously secular, like (gasp!) “Singin’ in the Rain”?
Hopefully, none of that will come into play. We sometimes look at the concept of holiness as being somehow separate from the rest of our lives. But really, when we’re walking with God, holiness is part of us, infused into our spirits. It’s part of who we are, not just what we do. Holiness is a work of grace in the life of the believer that changes how we view life, how we respond to people around us, how we react to the temptations that will inevitably come our way. It’s a quality both of purity and of love.
According to John Wesley, true holiness is about love: “ ‘The heaven of heavens is love.’ There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way.”
So I think we’re good. In fact, we’ve both found that the course is challenging us to dig deeper in our walk with the Lord.
But for now, if you need me, I’ll be working on my scriptural defense of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”
“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.”
– Psalm 24:1