Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Holiness Tradition – 2 of 6

Jesus showed us the way to the virtuous life during his Sermon on the Mount, punctuated by the law of love, or as James put it, the royal law.

The virtuous life is timely, appropriate and able. A person with virtue demonstrates holiness in that they are response-able; capable of doing right at every turn. They’re more consistently obedient to God and thus, fruitful in their endeavours.

In showing us the way, Jesus undercut exploitative economies, manipulative religion, and coercive politics--three areas where holiness and virtue are most important and paradoxically, also most threatened.

The temptation of Jesus featured tests of him, economically, religiously, and politically. He was tempted to turn stone into bread, forcing an exploitation of economics. He was tempted to throw himself down from the highest point of the temple, forcing a manipulation of religion--putting God to the test. He was finally given a glimpse of political control but would’ve had to coerce the situation.

He fell for none of these temptations, and in that is the example of Jesus’ holiness and life of virtue; our model. We are hence to follow him in these ways.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a modern-day exemplar of this tradition. His Stations on the Road to Freedom[1] of discipline, action, suffering and death speak volumes for the holiness tradition of obedience and the concept of ‘costly grace.’ Having Christ at the centre of his existence, he took his walk very seriously.

Holiness at first is a heart issue. Jesus spoke about the heart and that what is inside it gushes forth into life. A pure heart then is translated into virtuous action. And finally it is taught. So the holy person must teach.

The holiness tradition is about a “life that functions as it should.” It is important “because through it we are enabled to live whole, functional lives in a dysfunctional world.”[2]
[1] Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith (London, England: HarperCollinsReligious, 1998), p. 72. This work was penned on 21 July, 1944 nine months before Bonhoeffer’s death.
[2] Foster, Ibid, p. 96.

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