The fight happened at lunchtime on the school grounds two weeks before graduation. Four boys from my senior class, to celebrate the end of their secondary schooling, threw commonsense aside and attacked my brother Mark, a popular eleventh grader. A passing teacher broke up the fight.
My brother was left with a black eye. My classmates were sent to the principal's office.
My father, as school board president, was involved in deciding a suitable punishment. Being a just man, he met with the four boys to hear their side. They made the mistake in thinking that, because he gave them a hearing, he would believe their lies and they would escape punishment.
Many people make a similar mistake about God. They think that, because God is love, they can reject Jesus their whole lives, behave as they choose and still be welcomed into heaven.
As Christians, we know they're wrong. God is more than just love. If he were love only, that love would have kept him from sending his one and only son to be slaughtered on the cross. He would have found a less costly way to provide us with an entrance into heaven.
But he didn't because love is not the primary issue. Holiness is.
Holiness – being set apart for God, separated from ordinary, everyday usage – is clearly taught in the Old Testament commandments God gave the Israelites. (Lev. 20:22-26) We see this not just with regard to their worship but in their day-to-day living. In all aspects of their lives, the Israelites were to be a people set apart for God. (Lev. 19:1-2)
God is just as committed to holiness in the New Testament and in having a people set apart for himself. (1 Peter 2:9) Nothing proves that uncompromising commitment to holiness better than Christ's death on the cross. In 1 Peter 1:15-16, when God says, “Be holy for I am holy,” he means it.
God will not welcome us into his holy heaven unless we also are made holy by Christ's blood and continue to strive to be holy through holy living. A good portion of the New Testament is devoted to telling what this means. Our relationships are to be holy. Our thoughts, words and deeds are to be holy. We're to use our time, money and abilities in holy ways.
Not only will holy living prepare us for heaven, but our example can give our non-Christian friends a better grasp of God's primary issue.
The primary issue with my father was deciding a just punishment. Because he was fair, he listened to my classmates. They wasted their opportunity. Instead of admitting their fault and asking for leniency, they lied.
The primary issue with God is maintaining holiness. Because he loves us, he let his son die to provide us the opportunity to become holy. We must not waste our opportunity through unholy living. We must be holy examples for our non-Christian friends so, perhaps, they won't waste theirs.