Thoughts from Forge (John Franke) no 2…check out Tim’s blog for some detailed notes on this session. When I think of God, a significant divine attribute that comes to mind is holiness. Last week John Franke added a new dimension to my thoughts about holiness . I have always thought of the word “holiness” in relation to humanity as being set apart for God, and a way of conveying sinlessness or purity when used in reference to God. John asked the question – “How is holiness reflected if there is only God?” – what did it look like before creation? This is is a question that I have never thought to ask. Franke suggests that holiness is a relational concept – a category of difference. I guess he means that for something to be defined as holy, that which is not holy must also exist, as a comparison point. He said that holiness is therefore in relationship to created order. One may reasonably query why this is even worth pondering. The holiness of God is immeasurably difficult to comprehend, and our contrasting lack of holiness in human terms can easily lead to a concept of God where he is inaccessible. Now on one level God is inaccessible – He is like nothing we could ever know. We use images and metaphors to help us grasp at the edges of Him, but that is all they do. Yet God desires a relationship with us, and made himself incredibly accessible in a bodily and spiritual sense through Jesus. Franke suggests that while God is holy (and therefore set apart from the created order), this attribute is not as central as love. Franke sees “love” as a reality in the divine life – a dynamic interplay between giving, receiving, and sharing love (as I described in an earlier post). I guess an interesting question to consider is whether it was love or holiness that necessitated the incarnation of God through Jesus. Our fallen state (or lack of holiness) meant that for God to restore us something drastic had to happen. However, he could just as easily have pressed some kind of cosmic reset button and started again, thus satisfying His holiness. But God’s love for creation, and desire to draw us into His divine love formed the impetus to come up with another way. And what could be more appropriate than for our relational God to choose a relational path for drawing us in?
I think this has ramifications for how we think about mission. Traditional approaches often feature a good measure of fire and brimstone against a dirty backdrop of sin. This makes sense from a holiness perspective – for indeed our sin does get in the way. And, God is holy. But if love was the driving force for the nails in the cross, then surely love, as the central dynamic in God himself, should be our starting point in relating to those around us who have not entered into a relationship with Jesus. If as Franke pointed out, holiness is relational, we only become aware of our lack of holiness (or sin) as we are drawn into relationship with God. Hmm… to much to think about at this time of night.