I played the position of catcher in Little League baseball. I played catcher in Pony League baseball. I was a catcher in high school baseball. In college I played catcher on an intramural softball team. I spent a lot of time hunkered down behind home plate; hundreds of hours, thousands of innings, thousands upon thousands of pitches. During all of those games and practices, I noticed something.
The width of home plate never changed. It was always seventeen inches wide. Its dimensions were never up for discussion. We players could choose our uniforms, hats, shoes, and bats. But when it came to the plate, it was unchangeable and its size non-negotiable. When a pitcher couldn’t throw the ball over the seventeen-inch wide mark, the umpire didn’t offer to widen it. He never said: “Hey, buddy, I’m going to get a new plate just for you. Would twenty-five inches help?”
The width of the plate was immutable.
We might even say that the width of the home plate was “holy.” That’s a bit of a stretch, I know. Yet the idea of holiness in the Bible is, in many ways, like the home plate in baseball. Holiness describes something that is “set apart” and predetermined by God. Popular opinion cannot change it. Majority rule does not alter it. My preference does not affect it. The Supreme Court cannot change it. When God deems something as holy, it is holy from Little League to the Majors, from the beginning of life to the end of life.
Would it not be wise, then, for us to take note of what God considers to be holy?
What is holy to God? Why is it holy to God? Is it holy to me? Search the Scripture for what God considers holy and the list may surprise you.
According to Peter: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” (I Pet. 2:9 NIV). If you are a Christ-follower, there is nothing hum-drum about you. By virtue of your union with Jesus, you participate in the life of God: He dwells in you, and you dwell in him. As such, in Christ, God’s holiness is your holiness.
God sanctifies human life. Every beating heart matters to God. Whether that life is in the womb of a mother, the cell of a prison, the hallway of a convalescent home, or the corner office of a Wall Street high rise, that life is holy to God. “For God so loved the world, he gave his one and only Son.” (Jn. 3:16 NIV).
When the wedding officiant speaks of holy matrimony, the term is accurate. Jesus described a marriage as “…what God has joined together.” (Mt. 19:6 NIV) Marriage is unlike your friendship at the bridge club or your relationship with your siblings. It is “set apart” from business partnerships.
Many people see sex as recreation; in the same league as golf or sailing. God sees sex as a unique portrayal of divine intimacy. “Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband.” (Hebrews 13:4 MSG) God is not anti-sex. After all, he invented it! He regards it as a holy act; a portrayal of the relationship he desires with us.
Let six days be used for work and acquisition. But set one aside for spiritual and physical restoration. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (Ex. 20:8 NIV) Under older covenant, this day was Saturday. As Christians, we set aside Sunday, though many Christians still observe a Saturday Sabbath. The day of the observance matters less than the message of the observance- God wants us to worship and to rest. He designates the first day of every week as holy. He does the same with the first dime of every dollar.
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.” (Leviticus 27:30 NIV) The first ten per cent of everything you earn is, in God’s eyes, holy money. We never give it to God, we return what is already his. The tithe is holy.
No using the name of GOD, your God, in curses or silly banter; GOD won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name. (Exodus 20:7 MSG) Satan never prompts us to say: “Satan-dammit” or “demon-damn you.” Profanity is his way of rubbing the luster off the name of God. He has a simple ploy: dilute the divine name by making it common. For that reason, God-fearers revere the very name of God. It is holy.
The list could go on, but perhaps we have enough to ask the question, are we messing with the width of home plate? There is much discussion these days about the deterioration of our country. The diagnosis points at a predictable list of culprits: the economy is too weak, the military is too fragile, the government is too corrupt. Yet, Scripture compels us to ask a more fundamental question. Do we agree with God’s definition of holiness? As a society, as a country, are we submitting ourselves to heaven’s view of the sacred?
How could the answer be anything but “no”? We disregard the value of life and abort thousands of babies each day. We make a mockery out of marriage by re-defining it. Promiscuous sex is seen as a badge of honor and open-mindedness. We work first and rest later, rather than worship so we can work better. Is anything sacred? The mark of a deteriorating society is its disregard for the sacred.
What about us as individuals? Less we be too quick to point the finger at society, do we each need to look in the mirror? Is God challenging us to seek what is sacred?
God’s commands are meant to help us, not to burden us. He knows what we need to survive in this society. A Sabbath day for rest and worship. A view of sex that won’t leave us brokenhearted and bruised. The discipline of giving our money before it takes hold of us. A high view of God that leaves us unwilling to disrespect his name. Like speedbumps and curbs, these acts of holiness are meant to slow us down and keep us on the road.
Let’s be clear. We are saved by grace, not by being good. None of us are good enough to deserve the forgiveness of our King. We have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. We have fallen short. But Jesus Christ tilts the scale in our direction. We are evaluated according to his holiness, not ours. When His grace does its work, it creates a hunger for holiness; a desire to do what is right. Let grace do its work in you!
The width of home plate is not up for discussion, neither is God’s call to holiness.
© Max Lucado, September 2016