“Let’s be tolerant and fair.” We hear this plea from various corners of society today. Our senses begin to tingle, for our culture has a rocky relationship with actual tolerance. We aspire to give all views a place at the table, but the human heart is naturally set to believe in right and wrong. Even if we reject Christian morality, in other words, we will still cling to some sort of ethical framework. In our day, people often reject biblical ethics, but simply replace them with a secular version that includes tolerance and fairness.
But few people actually practice these principles—in part because these unreligious “values” have no real grounding. We say that we should tolerate people, but why, if we’re not accountable to any supreme being for our conduct? Small wonder that many people abandon these guidelines when the fur starts flying. By contrast, Christians are called to a far nobler standard. We are called to be surpassingly holy—that is, set apart for good. God wants us to reflect the moral excellence and ethical purity of his own nature. Our set-apart God desires a set- apart people.
Holiness is not relative; it has a foundation, one found in the heavens, where God dwells. It stands “above all the heathen virtues,” writes Jonathan Edwards, by which he means non-Christian standards. For this reason, spiritual purity is rare and precious, akin to jewels we spend decades trying to find in mines and shafts below the earth. The common stones of tolerance and fairness are coveted by many today, but when people see true holiness, they stop and stare. Holiness has a unique beauty that no one can deny, for it reflects the very nature of God. It is our possession, and it is our daily calling.
A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. (Isaiah 35:8)
-Owen Strachan, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, 288.