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HOLINESS AND RED BUTTONS



In studying holiness as a prayer key, I got bogged down with trying to understand it. I had an even harder time trying to explain it. I felt like the Red Buttons character in the movie, "Hatari."



In that movie, John Wayne led a team of hunters in Africa capturing wild animals for zoos. Red Buttons was a member of his team, but he was scared of wild animals. He would drive a truck through a herd of charging rhinos, as long as he was inside the truck and the rhinos were outside the truck. He would hold a rope with a wildebeast on the other end, as long as he was outside the pen and the wildebeast was inside the pen. He would design a rocket to carry a net over a tree filled with hundreds of monkeys, as long as he stayed outside the net and someone else went inside the net to grab the monkeys.



At one point, John Wayne needed help, but Red Buttons was on the far side of the pens. He was afraid of wild animals, but he was more afraid of John Wayne. He climbed the fence, then walked carefully along the top rail separating two pens. Beasts watched him from both sides.



Trying to explain holiness makes me feel like Red Buttons trying to walk that rail, with beasts on either side.



Trying to describe a holy life can degenerate into a pharisaical list of do's and don'ts like those criticized earlier. It can sound like a belief in our own sinless perfection, our own divine virtue. God would not command us to be holy if it was not possible. Explaining holiness can fall one way and be devoured by a beast named "Legalism."



I have read that after John 3:16 and John 11:35, the verse which the most Christians can quote is 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."


Recognizing that we cannot reach sinless perfection makes it easy to think "I can't be holy, it's no use, but God understands. He forgives and all is made right." We can give up too easily in our struggle with sin because confession and forgiveness seem to be easy alternatives. We then fall the other way to be devoured by a beast named "License," by the thought that,



God commands us to be holy. He commands us to be separate from the world and separated unto him. Neither legalism nor license are acceptable substitutes.

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