Updated: May 14, 2021
The idea of holiness seems to be out of date in much of contemporary Western Christianity. Perhaps it's a reaction to the harmful forms of holiness of the 50s and early 60s that focused on the things one was not permitted to do. Now that's understandable, notably when many of the 'do not's appeared to be quite arbitrary. It would be foolish to think that there are no 'do not's' in a healthy, mature version of the Christian faith, for there are many things that are either unhelpful or even dangerous to the Christian walk of faith. Likewise, there are those things that the Scripture point to as being harmful and sinful. At the same time, other things appear to be culturally relative depending on the contextual nature of the situation.
Moreover, in this age of cultural relativity, many Christian people struggle to discern between that which is absolute and relative to the cultural context. Sadly for many, everything is relative and little is inadmissible. But for those seeking to live in a way faithful to Jesus lordship, how do we navigate these issues? What is the essence of Christian holiness, and what are the forms that are contextual appropriate in various situations? Let me suggest what it is not before suggesting what it is. Seeking to discern the essence of Christian holiness is not discovered by asking, "What would Jesus do?" for that is far too superficial. It does not get to the heart of the matter. Instead, the essence of Christian holiness always involves 'looking like Jesus' in whatever context and situation we are located. That is the challenge of Christian holiness, and we will only come close to it as we live a life of obedience to Jesus as Lord of our lives through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.