| THE HOLY LIFE
By: Jerry S. Maneker
“As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good
fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his
appearing.” “The lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory
forever and ever. Amen. (2Timothy 4:6-8, 18)
I’m certainly not one to talk about what constitutes “the holy life” as it is conventionally defined! My life has been rather
checkered, and as I have just celebrated my sixty fifth birthday I have had occasion to reflect on what A.E. Tozier
entitled his book, “The Pursuit of Holiness,” and have witnessed how far short I fall in this endeavor, in that I have never
really sought to “pursue” holiness.
I’m well aware that the passions evoked by injustices in this world, as well as by the carnal world itself, have frequently
eclipsed what is felt to be the need to nurture my relationship with God in a way seemingly more consistent with
Christian expectations. This fire in the belly at first blush seems antithetical to a life of “holiness” as we conventionally
understand it, but it may be more than a mere rationalization to suggest that, despite the contention and anger at
injustice that exist, the fight for the underdog may be as equally a manifestation of holiness as is the active nurturing of
a relationship with God in a more contemplative, meditative way.
Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “A good intention but fixed and resolute – bent on high and holy ends, we shall find
means to them on every side and at every moment; and even obstacles and opposition will but make us ‘like the fabled
specter-ships,’ which sail the fastest in the very teeth of the wind.” A life of holiness can, and for some of us must,
entail externalizing that fire in the belly and channeling it as we perceive God directs, to bring to light, and fight against,
those who seek to place yokes of bondage on others for their own selfish gain, or for any reason they deem acceptable.
For some of us, a life of holiness does entail sailing “the fastest in the very teeth of the wind,” but it also can and must
inevitably entail a “letting go” of constants in our lives that we have hitherto taken for granted. Anatole France stated,
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we
must die to one life before we can enter another.”
One of the best insights I heard concerning the aging process was told me by the father of an ex-student of mine. He
said that the most important trait one must have while undergoing the aging process is the ability to handle loss.
“Loss,” as painful as it is, not only contributes to “holiness,” but prepares us to be ready and willing to depart this life
and, as a ship leaving the harbor, begin that long journey we all will take.
Over time we inexorably lose our powers, our loved ones, our illusion of control over our lives. Yet, amidst these
profound losses, amidst what difficulties, tragedies, and persecutions might be visited upon us, we have Jesus’
assurance, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” (Luke 21:19)
In my opinion, “the holy life,” unlike the assumption made by Tozier, is not something one pursues! It is something that
the person of God naturally lives! It doesn’t matter what others think about the “level of holiness” of your life! It doesn’t
even matter what you think about “the level of holiness” of your life! What matters is that we endure to the bitter end,
knowing full well that God has imputed holiness to us, and the fact of our losses, as well as the way we handle those
losses, frequently shows forth the reality of that imputation both to others as well as to ourselves.
Holiness, the consequence of salvation, is imputed to us by God’s grace, that we appropriate through our faith in Him
(See, for example, Acts 2:21, Romans 5:1-2, Romans 10:13.); how we behave is a manifestation and proof of that
imputation that was visited upon us two thousand years ago. From the Cross, Jesus’ last words were, “It is finished.”
His salvivic work on the Cross made possible our salvation, our reconciliation with God, our peace with God, our
justification, and our imputed holiness! Jesus left us His commandments to trust God over and above seen
circumstances, and to love other people as much as we love ourselves. He says that these two commandments fulfill the
whole law and, for the person who lives out these commandments, he or she has shown that he or she is living that life
of holiness that was ordained for, and imputed to, him or her from the foundation of the world.
It doesn’t matter if any mere human being recognizes your life of holiness! What matters is that God already imputed it
to you from the foundation of the world! (Ephesians 1:4)
The Apostle Paul made this fact crystal clear when he wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before
the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children
through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely
bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of his grace, that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:3-8)
He “lavished” his grace, or unmerited favor, on us from the foundation of the world and, hence, we are viewed by God
as holy people, a people set apart who belong to God, and must rest on God’s promise that, “No weapon that is
fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the
heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 54:17)
The Apostle Peter hammered home this same point when he said to “…the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to
be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood….” (1Peter 1-2) the following: “But you are a chosen
race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who
called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once
you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1Peter 2:9-10)
So, the issue is not “the pursuit of holiness” but, rather, the living out of that holiness imputed to us from the foundation
of the world and made possible by the sacrifice of God’s Perfect Lamb by means of which God doesn’t see our sins but
sees Jesus’ shed blood; He doesn’t see us but sees His Son. We are holy by imputation and our whole lives,
throughout all of its stages, must be seen as manifesting that holiness, regardless of whether or not that manifestation
is deemed acceptable to this sin-cursed world, deemed acceptable to other professing Christians, or even deemed
acceptable to us.
In this connection, a distinction must be made between “holiness” and “morality.” “Holiness” is imputed by God to those
who belong to Christ; “morality” is action that is approved or disapproved by mere human beings. Put another way,
“morality” is a frequently variable social and individual construct, whereby one’s reputation is defined, given the
traditions, values, and expectations of most people in a given society at any given time.
Clearly, we are not to act in any way that causes hindrance to the Gospel of Christ! However, the issue of “morality”
must not be confused with “holiness,” as frequently occurs in Christian circles. Just because some behaviors find favor
with the majority of people in a given society, doesn’t necessarily mean that those behaviors find favor with God! The
behaviors that find favor with God are manifestations of imputed “holiness” that shows forth an implacable trust in God
and love toward other people!
We are assured by Scripture that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ! “Who will bring any charge against
God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at
the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all
creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:33-35, 38-39)
So, holiness is imputed and is a fact, apart from what we seek to pursue, as the Holy Spirit Who indwells every Christian
directs him or her to live his or her life in such a way that manifests that fact of imputed holiness. And that living out of
that imputed holiness is done on both the conscious and unconscious levels! Regardless of what the Christian does,
he or she is living the holy life, or contributing to the holiness of his or her life, of which he or she is frequently unaware.
The very manifestation of love for God and love for others is the outward sign of that imputed holiness visited upon us
by God. Now, just as our lives are such manifestations of that holiness, so are our reactions to our losses that inevitably
and inexorable come with the aging process! We are obliged to realize that we are to hold everything that is in this
world loosely in our hands, as none of it belongs to us, and sooner or later they will be taken from us or we will be taken
I just concelebrated a mass for a close friend of mine! He suffered so much in the last ten years, with such assorted
illnesses as prostate cancer, heart disease needing bypass surgery, lung cancer, and liver cancer from which he died.
I prayed every day, after his diagnosis of his being terminal, that God take him as quickly as possible so as to spare him
any more suffering.
He was the nicest, sweetest person you could ever meet! I wasn’t sure I could perform the mass as, although I don’t
think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried in my life, I found myself crying as I performed it. I don’t
handle loss easily!
Although intellectually we know that everyone dies. Emotionally, we really can’t fathom it. And that’s probably how it’s
supposed to be! We’re not to really have “detached concern” as so many religious leaders, counselors, and others
advocate. We really are to look upon each other, and accurately at that, as brothers and sisters and view their leaving
us as not merely a “separation,” but actually an “amputation” in this life here on earth
The handling of this “amputation,” along with the way we live out our lives, manifests our holiness. This amputation
occurs not only when we lose loved ones, but when we lose our powers, and even when we are to lose our very lives as
we know it on this earth. Although, like Jacob, we frequently wrestle with God, we are ultimately put into the position of
recognizing that we are not to chafe under, nor are we able to contravene, God’s sovereign choices in and for our lives.
They thought I was dying of pancreatitis many years ago and when I was in the hospital a woman whom I had never
seen before came to visit me. We talked for a little while and then she left. I never saw her again.
I later found out that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and that she had decided to spend her last days
visiting and comforting people in the hospital. Undoubtedly, unbeknownst to her, she was during this time manifesting
her life of holiness! After her diagnosis, she could have chosen to curl up in a fetal position, rail against God, curse the
darkness and her fate, and wait to die.
However, she chose to spend her final days counting for something by doing good for others; being a balm of comfort
to those who were suffering! Whether she “chose” this path, or whether the way was “chosen for her,” is beside the
point and could be the subject of another article, although I personally think it’s the latter reason. What is the point is
that, although I don’t know whether or not she was “religious,” that fact doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that she expressed holiness, not in spite of her impending loss, but precisely because of her
impending loss. As George Santayana said about art, one can say about the living of one’s life under any
circumstances, “Nothing is really so poor and melancholy as art that is interested in itself and not in its subject.”
This woman was not as interested in herself as much as she was interested in “her subject!” She undoubtedly saw her
interconnectedness with her subjects and that her own emotional and spiritual well-being was contingent upon her
seeking to uplift others and nurture the well-being of others, her brothers and sisters. She lived out the Apostle Paul’s
admonition to us to, “… not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9 KJV)
All too often, especially when people undergo suffering of one type or another, they become self-absorbed to the virtual
exclusion of recognizing and helping to meet the needs of others. The life of holiness is natural for the Christian, as he
or she is constantly being directed by the Person Who is indwelling him or her: the Holy Spirit. And, whether or not it
makes sense to anyone, including the person so indwelt, that person’s life is one of holiness. And how do we know this
fact? Because the Gospel of grace tells us so! (See, for example, Ephesians 2)
And now, through the aging process, as we begin to see and ponder “the light at the end of the tunnel,” we may come
to see our very lives and our enduring of losses, those manifestations of holiness, as indicating the fact that we are
shedding the baggage we have been carrying all of these years. As a person engaged in a long journey, we tire and
God removes from us, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, the baggage that we come to realize has accompanied us,
and sometimes even encumbered us, on our journey.
That baggage, including our loved ones, our powers, and those “constants” we have ignorantly taken for granted, is
shed, as is our pride and, ultimately, our very self! Inexorably and inevitably, if we live long enough, we are ordained to
completely shed that baggage and come to see the Light Who is the only Constant in the universe, and in our very lives.
When we have finally reached the final stage of life, we will come to see our lives as solely having been a gift from God,
and God’s life as having been a free gift to us. We can then finally realize and acknowledge the truth of what the
Christian martyr, Kartar Singh, wrote at the time he was dying, “The life He gave to me is the life I gave to Him.”
That realization that the outworking of every aspect of our lives from the time we were born, whether or not that
outworking had ever made any sense to us, was the manifestation of our life of holiness that was imputed to us by God;
that holiness existed before we were able to manifest it, before we were even born, and before we even knew God.