The Way of Holiness

Recently I have been reflecting on a message Robert Gelinas gave at the Renovare International Conference this year.  Gelinas spoke about holiness and how we often misunderstand holiness today.  Godly holiness, he said, is a way of delight, not legalism.  He used two stories from Greek mythology to make his point.

In Greek mythology, the Sirens were bird-like women who lived on an island surrounded by rocks and cliffs.  They sang beautiful songs that would lure any men within earshot to shipwreck on the island.

In the Odyssey, Odysseus wants to hear the Sirens’ legendary song, so he orders his men to tie him to the mast of his ship and fill their ears with beeswax.  As they neared the island, Odysseus could hear the Sirens, and he was filled with a desire to go toward them.  He began to scream at his men to set a course for the island.  With ears full of beeswax, the sailors were deaf to both his pleas and the Sirens’ song, so they kept their heads down and sailed on. Seeing that they were not responding, Odysseus began to struggle with his bonds trying to free himself so that he might jump overboard and swim to the Sirens.  But his bonds held tight, and his men sailed on until they were clear of the dangerous song.

This is how I use to approach holiness.  I saw it as a battle.  I told myself I needed to keep my head down, soldier on, and fight for every inch while doing everything I could to ignore the siren song of sin.  I basically thought it was my responsibility to manage my behavior and produce a life of holiness.

But a better metaphor for holiness found in the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece.  Jason and his men did not use beeswax and rope to avoid the sirens.  Jason was told that Orpheus, a brilliant musician, would be necessary for a successful journey.  As they approached the Sirens, Orpheus began to play a song more beautiful that that of the Sirens. As a result, the Sirens’ song had no influence over Jason and his men, and they sailed on safely.

This is the real way of holiness.  The way of holiness is not the way of white knuckles.  The way of holiness is the more beautiful way.  Recently I have been seeing the result of this kind of holiness in my life.  There are times in my life when I neglect the disciplines, times when I wander off the path of my rule of life.  I am finding that I am not called back by guilt or shame but by a glimpse of and a desire for the way of holiness.  It comes in a song, a message, a book, the beauty of nature, or a relationship.  I catch a glimpse of the life I desire, the life that I know I was created by God to live or the person I know He created me to be.  That glimpse draws me back to my rule, and I find holiness not in a legalistic struggle to achieve it but in my desire to return to the delight I find abiding in the true vine.

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4 Responses to The Way of Holiness

  1. Great post, Jason. Lately, I’ve felt I’ve needed more of the beautiful song, but is it possible that we need both the beautiful song and the rope? Discipline and hope? Or is it possible somehow to combine the power of both? A rountine of song? I’m feel I’m starting to mix too many metaphors and don’t understand what I’m saying anymore. Thanks for thoughts.

  2. thefeffers says:

    Marc,
    I definitely think we need discipline, and there are certainly times for effort. (I love Willard’s line that grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.) That being said, for far too long I have been operating under the false assumption that the Christian life is about trying hard to produce holiness. I’m not convinced that holiness actually is produced in “the way of the white knuckle.”

  3. jason – good post on holiness. hey – happy new year!!!!!!!!!

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