By Ryan Diaz
At the end of Exodus 22, Yahweh implores the people of Israel to be His holy people. This injunction comes after a long and seemingly random list of laws and legal instructions. But on closer examination, these laws aren’t arbitrary at all. A thread runs through the list, tying them all together—these laws framed how the Israelites related to their neighbors, God, and possessions.
Holiness was more than a call to personal piety. Instead, it was a call to live rightly in relation to others. For the Israelites, holiness was a vocation. God called them to be a special people: His representatives, a kingdom of priests meant to bridge the gap between God and humanity. Thus their relational lives became an arena for their witness. Their religious worship was validated by how they interacted and engaged with the world. If they were to be God’s people, their relationships would have to be informed by God’s justice and mercy. Their identity was indelibly tied up with their relational lives, so failure to treat their fellow humans with dignity resulted in a fractured witness and God’s swift judgment.
How we relate to the world says much about who we are. God has called us to reflect His beauty and justice in how we engage with the world. Holiness has to be more than religious grandstanding, more than pious prayers, and theological posturing. We are called to “speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed” (Proverbs 31:8). How we engage with others, handle our possessions, and relate to creation all help to witness God’s reality and the kingdom established through Jesus Christ. Our failure to do so inhibits the power of our witnesses and turns our worship into mere play-acting—symbols with no sacramental power, words devoid of the Word. A Christless expression of Christianity unable to preach the reality of Christ crucified with boldness. There is no witness without service, and service requires us to see others as God sees them, worthy of dignity and love.
Today, God invites us to be His holy people and take stock of our relationships and interactions, and align them with His mercy and justice. This means taking a hard look at how we treat others, opening our eyes to those who are vulnerable, and responding in love to the oppressed. It means evaluating how we relate to our possessions and reexamining what we consume, repenting where we have failed, and confessing our brokenness in community. Ultimately this involves taking up our cross, ceasing seeking after our good, and instead seeking “the good of the other person” (1Corinthians 10:24). Living as Jesus lived: a self-giving life, a holy life, wholly consecrated to God and the service of others.