In Washington DC at the Metro Station in January 2007 world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell played six (6) Bach pieces for about 45 minutes on a $3.5 million violin while 2,000 people went through the station. Only about eight (8) adults stopped for short time to listen. He collected $32.00 for his effort. Two (2) days before he played the same pieces at an average $100 per seat, sold out theatre in Boston. A truly exceptional musician using an unbelievably expensive violin performing a world class concert and most of the people were clueless about what they were hearing.
Similarly, if a truly holy individual was in our midst, would we even notice them? What does holiness look like and would many people recognize it if they encountered it?
Jesus, holiness personified, wasn’t always recognized either. His holiness drew some people to him but turned many others away. But it compelled them to decide one way or the other. Like the Pharisees (religious people) accusing the woman caught in adultery and challenging Jesus on how to handle her sin. Jesus instantly saw through their hypocrisy and quietly refused to take their bait. Instead, He one-upped them with a statement that was simple yet brilliant, let him who hasn’t sinned throw the first stone. Jesus’ wisdom completely disarmed them and though they entered into this exchange thinking they had Jesus cornered, in the end we see them sleeking away with their self-righteous tails between their legs.
The woman stayed, no doubt appreciative for what He did, but I suspect for other reasons as well. Jesus comforted those who needed comforting; challenged those that needed challenging; and confronted those needing confronting. The woman needed comforting and Jesus provided that comfort in a very real and tangible way. He didn’t condemn her but His holiness would not allow Him to say nothing about her sin so with gentle firmness He sends her away with the encouragement to sin no more. I, for one, believe she tried to do just that. Jesus, friend of sinners, quietly drew the woman to Him and sent her off a different person.
It has always amazed me that the worst of the New Testament sinners felt perfectly at ease with Jesus. Yet the religious people, the people you would think should have known better, wanted nothing to do with him. In fact, they hated him, were jealous of Him.
Holiness has that ability to make people feel cared about and loved. Not ashamed, but accepted. But accepted in a way that moves them to change, to be different than they are, to be better than they thought they could be.
Holiness is not so much what you do, but rather Whose you are. It’s not something you work at or achieve. It’s an understanding that you aren’t holy but know Someone who is. And knowing that Someone is what your life is all about. It’s so important that nothing else really matters and you give it all away (Mt. 13: 46). And knowing Him is knowing true holiness. And, once encountered, like the woman caught in adultery, you will never be the same.