A few years ago, I wrote about a concept in my book The Tangible Kingdom, which I believe is the key to Christian engagement of the lost world. It’s by far the most controversial topic to date, but one I think is worth fighting over.
I introduced a concept called “Whimsical Holiness,” to help people understand the tension between the call of incarnational life and the perceived biblical mandate to be holy.
First, let me give a basic definition: ‘whimsical holiness’ is the ability to hold to personal values of Christ-likeness while being deeply integrated into a relationship with people who do not hold your same convictions.
I didn’t pull this concept out of thin air. It came after a lengthy walk through the gospels noting Jesus’ ability to be perfectly holy while being a “friend of sinners.” Evangelicals often communicate a subtle theology and practice of holiness based avoiding the world and worldly people. Jesus however, gave us a picture and definition of holiness that included being in the world. How do we know for sure? People that feel condemned and judged by someone don’t usually keep following them nor would they call them ‘friends.’
Theologically Christians must learn that we are free to make friends with humanity because Jesus paid for the sin of all humanity.
Because he managed it once and for all, we no longer have to micro-manage it or be afraid of it.
Not only did Jesus take sin upon himself, he actually descended to the very depths of hell experiencing the very worst and deepest of all evil. He’s been to the darkest side of the tracks and doesn’t switch to the other side of the road when he sees a bunch of hoodlums coming toward him. Jesus wasn’t freaked out by sin or sinners!
While the Spirit does not rejoice, make light of, or disregard sin and unrighteousness, He is also not wringing his hands or wide-eyed and horrified like a teenage girl at a scary movie. The God of our scriptures, the son whom he sent into the world, and His spirit that ever pursues humanity, is not a puritan or prudish teetotaler. He is a pursuer, a redeemer, and an advocate.
When Jesus made more wine for people who were already hammered drunk: When he purposefully neglected to remind his disciples to wash their hands correctly before eating: When he bent down and drew a smiley face in the tear-moistened dirt beneath the sex-addicted woman caught in adultery: When he ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. And yes, while being with all these people who were doing all these sinful things, he was holy.
Like a veteran skid row social worker that has seen it all and knows the back-story of dysfunction that is behind the brokenness, he deals with the whole person, not just the observable sinful patterns. Like a wise judge with years behind the bench, he’s able to cut through the B.S and get to the heart of the matter. Like a middle linebacker who unconsciously shirks aside 300-pound offenders coming at him, to get to the quarterback, Jesus shirks off sins to win the heart of the sinner. God has been to the brothels, the bars, and the back alleys of sin- city, and coming from the bottom floor of hell to the first floor of humanity isn’t a big deal for him.
And as the Father sent Jesus..he sends us!
This is the power of incarnation and the character of whimsical holiness every Christian must learn to clothe themselves with. Redemption, liberation, and sanctification are all dirty jobs. The dirtiest! And the call of following Christ is a jump into pain, hell, and disorientation of all kinds of sinful acts without an arrogant, finger-pointing sense of judgment.
People with Jesus’ whimsical holiness don’t gasp for air when someone curses: They don’t avoid a group of people, a place, or a party because someone might get out of hand: They do inhabit dark places with the intention of protecting, and redeeming, befriending and befuddling people with acceptance and love. They do win the lost because they’re the only ones who hang out with the lost.