The Backyard Missionary posted recently on some thoughts about holiness by Alan Hirsch. It was interesting to see these ideas in front of me, nearly 15 years after I first heard them. I had been dating Amy (now my bride) for a few months. At the time I was new to this whole follow Jesus thing in every aspect of your life and the guy who was teaching me to walk with Jesus (Matt) wanted to have a conversation about my dating relationship. That was weird.

So, Matt and I headed to the Bovee University Center on the campus of Central Michigan University and grabbed a table in the Down Under Club. It was awkward as he asked me some really personal questions. I told him what he wanted to hear (whether or not it was the truth is another story). Then Matt asked me what I thought the statement, “Be holy as I am holy” meant. Well, I listed off as many rules of good Christian moralism as I could muster and Matt took it in. This was not his first time around the block. He smiled and asked, “Is that it?” I squirmed (not smiling) and replied, “Yeah.”

At that point Matt flipped my entire grid of what it means to be holy. He changed the way I thought because he opened my eyes tot the reality that I was focusing on all the things that I couldn’t do and still honor God with my life. The key thing, Matt explained, was what we could do. We could be holy. We could choose to live our lives in such a way that shows the world around us that we are different.

I had never thought about it like that. I thought following Jesus meant that I needed to understand the rules. The reality is that the rules aren’t the point. The point was living like someone and as opposed to not like someone. It’s so much easier to watch someone model something and do it than figuring out how not to do it. You see Jesus lived life the way we ought to live life. He lived it full, he lived it fun, he lived it on the edge. Do I? Do you? Jesus was called a drunk and a glutton. Most of us would only be mistaken for Tom Sawyer’s good-goody cousin Sid.

Holiness pushes us out to the brink. Holiness challenges us in ways that makes us uncomfortable. Holiness subverts our ordinary lives and causes us to live life on the edge where only angels dare to walk.