Written by Ross Breitkreuz
“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:5). Be holy? You might as well ask me to be an ice cream sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be—holy, that is, not an ice cream sandwich—but where does one begin? Holiness isn’t a very common topic. It sounds slightly religious, slightly unattainable, and slightly confusing. What does it mean to be holy? What does it look like? And how do we “be holy” with struggles, reminders, and people (like family) that highlight our shortcomings?
Nothing in life makes us more aware of what we lack than those closest to us. Family can magnify our weaknesses and test our character. The Bible is filled with family struggles: Cain killed Abel, Jacob cheated Esau, Joseph was beat by his brothers. Even Jesus’ siblings thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21). Family members can be a challenge. Sometimes they can feel like roadblocks to holiness. Example, “If only my (brother, sister, mom, dad, cousin…) wasn’t so (annoying, boring, demanding, judgmental, slow, mean…), I would be (happier, nicer, kinder, caring, understanding, patient…).” Family is hard. I would know. As the youngest, I acted like it was my mission to trigger my siblings whenever I could (Sorry, Adam and Erin). So how do we navigate family dynamics and “be holy”?
For starters, we can’t attain holiness. That’s why Jesus came. Holiness isn’t something we work towards, it’s something we’ve been freely given. Viewing holiness as a title we “earn” is religion. The Pharisees thought they were doing that, and it led to self-righteousness. Through Jesus, we’ve been granted holiness (Romans 11:16, Colossians 1:22, 2 Timothy 1:9). The whole notion of working to achieve it is laughable. Do we actually think we can be more holy than we’re made through Jesus? If you are in Christ, you are holy. Now what?
You might be thinking, “I thought being holy would feel different?” I thought the same, but what if that’s the wrong approach? What if being holy is less about how we feel and more about how we live? (Similar to love being a choice not a feeling). I used to think holy people would be disconnected from society—like monks. I thought it demanded separation from culture to maintain or achieve it. I viewed it as a state or existence. I was wrong.
Jesus was holy (Luke 1:35), and he wasn’t disconnected from society, struggles, or issues. In fact, my version of a holy person looks more like the Pharisees, and they were not holy, they were fools, blind guides, serpents, vipers, and hypocrites (Matt. 23:16-33, Luke 11:44). Being holy is a call to action. We can be holy in our struggles. We won’t always do this perfectly, but that’s okay, our faith journey is a long term refining process, and God has given us a gift to develop our ability to be holy—family.
Family can provide constant situations of conflict. This can be frustrating, but it’s also an opportunity. Every struggle is a chance to grow in reflecting Jesus, by being selfless, kind, caring, patient, encouraging, giving, etc. If we fail? It won’t be long until we get another chance. That’s how we fulfill this call. I didn’t learn this until college.
In college I took a class that tackled the topic of sports and faith. Playing college hockey at the time, this was something I was trying to figure out. I’d seen athletes quit sports because they made them jealous, angry, frustrated, selfish, etc., and this impacted their relationship with God. Part of this made sense, until my teacher explained that God uses the athletic arena to refine us, if we let Him. Sports don’t make us jealous, angry, frustrated, selfish, they simply bring those qualities out of us. Those attitudes are inside, sports just reveal them. Quitting wasn’t solving the issue, it shifted blame to the sport. We can learn to control those attitudes or we can avoid them, and have them pop-up again in the future. So it is with family.
Family issues and trials don’t have to be roadblocks. Your brother may genuinely be a turd, but you can use that to your advantage. Don’t disconnect or point fingers. Be holy. Love family. Who better to practice Jesus’ love on? Family pain cuts deep, only because we love them so much. Love them like Jesus by taking one step deeper into holiness with each challenge. If you’re as blessed as my siblings were, someone in your family might be giving you that chance EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Don’t waist the opportunity. Adam and Erin, you’re welcome.