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What Does It Mean to Be Holy?

Holiness is an ambiguous concept we encounter on our spiritual journey. Every time I stop to consider what it means to be holy, I wonder how God could even suggest holiness could exist in humans. I think it reveals His great love for us. He loves us so much He sees that we are capable of more than we could ever even come close to conceiving.

Holiness fits right into the category of impossibility. Ye,t it is what God is all about in our lives. God says that there are people who are holy. In Acts 3:21, He calls the prophets holy. I understand how things could be holy or even a place can be holy. But it is when God calls a person holy or even suggests that I should strive for holiness that the idea becomes inconceivable.

When I think about the holy prophets (mentioned in Acts 3:21) who told about Jesus, I know that they each had their failures along the way. Not one lived a perfect life. What made them holy was their will that was devoted to serving God.

I can say that I have met people who exude a sense of holiness. Sometimes they are the people you would least expect to move you, but something does. This summer I was in Guatemala and entered a church where no one spoke English. My friends and I grew curious about what could be happening that day because there seemed to be a lot of action and preparation. I thought it might be a special Saint’s day. I used my Spanglish to ask the nun what was happening in the church. I didn’t realize at the time that she was probably the one in charge of all the preparations that were obviously more important than a curious tourist. Yet, that is not how she treated me. She should have been rushed and irritated at the interruption that I became. Instead, she was very kind and very patient and focused totally on our little group until she was sure we understood the answer to our question. After we left I still felt the wonder of her kindness and care she took to stop everything she was doing to answer.

Not being hurried and welcoming every person God sends to you with big problems or small is a picture of holiness. However holiness is so much more than that. Holiness is the experience of coming most near to what it means to have been created in the image of God. God created us to be holy like He is holy; and no matter how far we are from that, He won’t give up the hope for us to become holy.

1 Peter 1:16 says, “Since it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Holiness is constantly held out as the aspiration of our lives. If I were God, I would have given up long ago. He asked holiness of the Israelites, and they deviated so far from His hopes for them. He continues to draw out holiness from us. Holiness is being Christ-like in character.

It’s a good practice to treat things and places in a holy way, but it is much more difficult to become a holy person. As I reflect over my life, I can find a few holy moments—times when I have responded as Christ would, but they are few and far between. Still God keeps calling me to His vision for my life. He wants me to become a person of holiness, to have a character that can be described as holy to God.



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