Reading and reflecting on growing in Christ or spiritual formation, it makes a big difference as to whether we focus on holiness or love to the exclusion of the other. If our focus is holiness, sin consciousness and separation from the world will play a big part. If our focus is love, acceptance and relational connectivity and engagement with the world will be the big focus. A focus on holiness can lead to legalism and isolation, a focus on love to a careless liberty and accommodation.
One thing that is sure is that God is not one or the other, he is both. He is holy, he is love, he is as J I Packer put it “holy love”. Is holiness is qualified by his love and his love by his holiness.
The fact is holiness and love were never meant to be separated – what God has joined together let no man put asunder is applicable here as elsewhere.
When we separate them we end up with distorted, unbalanced, Christian lives, lives that do not wholly reflect Christ. Lives that are not a good witness to the world.
My early Christian life largely focussed on the holiness of God, today the focus seems to be the love of God. Sometimes, it has to be admitted, we are reactionary, if something has been overemphasized and we have felt it’s effect, then when another facet of the truth is revealed to us, we can end up polarising in the other direction.
For a truly healthy spirituality and a rightly balanced walk with God, that will be a fully rounded witness to the world, we need to re-engage the two.
To quote Francis Shaffer, “If our reflex action is always accommodation, regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong. Just as what we may call holiness without love is not God’s kind of holiness, so also what we may call love without holiness is not God’s kind of love.” (The Great Evangelical Disaster, 64).
Which one do you emphasise?
Which do you need to re-engage?