Jews insist that the name of God is holy – too holy to be written or spoken.
Muslims are convinced that any depiction of God or anything created in God’s image – in fact any living creation, human or animal – is made by the hand of God and therefore too holy to be copied or portrayed by human hands in any work of art or worship.
It’s an interesting premise. Anything that represents God – or anything purportedly made in God’s image is, by definition, beyond human domain – and not to be copied or mimicked. Christianity has no such restrictions, and I am convinced that we are much poorer for it.
In Christianity, I have heard it said, everything is holy. But if everything is holy, nothing is holy. Among Christians, little is sacred. Few things are set apart, and few, if any icons, rituals, actions or days stand defined and distinct beyond our humanizing reach.
What we hold sacred – or in this case, refuse to hold or touch or eat, because of its inherent sacredness – reminds us and shows the world what we believe and why it matters.
Could most of us even begin to imagine a life where we held even one aspect or element so sacred that we kept our hands or even our eyes away from it? That we set it aside for special use only, or even kept it at all because its sacredness is beyond our reach?
The ultimate irony, though, is that Christians, not being defined by dress or diet, are themselves, at least according to St. Paul, a people set aside (1 Peter, 2:9). A people defined and distinct by their calling and character. A people inspired by a vision unique, yet accessible to all. Focused on life, yet unimpressed by death. A message so simple yet powerful that it would inspire the simple and uneducated, yet would frighten and upend kings and kingdoms.
You might think that a faith tradition of this potency, of geographic and historic presence, and sheer number of adherents would leave a tangible trail of compassion, healing, restoration, liberty, respect, and celebration around the world. Yet, that is not the case.
The call itself has become a shadow, a movement, not of transformed lives or communities, not a fellowship of those inspired to live a life of building up “one another” (Mark 9:50, John 15:12, Romans 12:16) but has, with few exceptions — those rare pockets and movements that flare up occasionally — become a pallid, frightened people without power or vision fighting to protect – not share – the divine gift they have been given.
Christians, as described on virtually every page of the New Testament, are those who live a life informed and filled by a destiny, a passion, not of things worn or eaten or done on certain days, but of a power and presence unleashed and never forgotten. A faith lived – not followed.
Christians, at least according to the New Testament, are called to be disciples, not believers; irresistible, not convincing; and doers, not just proclaimers, of the Good News.
Christians are called to be salt and light, the active ingredient – that miniscule catalyst that sets the world right, that is known and immediately recognized.
Faith is the ultimate asymmetrical force. There is no telling when or where it may emerge and what comforts, traditions, or institutions it will displace.
Kings are correct to fear it.
The holy will not be contained.