by Randi Peck
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” -1 Thessalonians 5:23
- To set apart; purify; consecrate
- Free from sin
- Keep blameless
What do you imagine complete sanctification looks like? Do visions of white robes, missionaries, and monasteries come to mind? A life lived in isolation, free from Netflix and Twitter, electricity and mortgages? Does being kept blameless consist of selling all our belongings and saying goodbye to our friends and family, in order to live in a third world, mud hut? I suppose I used to think so.
When I was twenty years old, freshly heart-broken, and zealous with the realization that God was more than enough, I offered him my life completely. Oh, I had been walking with him since I was young, but now I was ready to live like a “real” Christian. I assumed that leaving behind the mentalities and sins I was once enslaved to implied leaving behind the culture wherein they resided.
And so, I prepared. I went out to morning worship multiple times a week, locked myself in my bedroom to pray, escaped to the park to read my Bible, and spent many evenings hiding in the corner of Barnes & Noble, soaking in C.S. Lewis. I began my degree towards Journalism, certain the Lord would use this passion of mine to inspire the world while I conquered it. I started researching and contacting orphanages in Africa, expecting God to ship me off. I felt brave. I felt spiritual. I felt sanctified.
And then life happened. Two years later, I was still working coffee, had dropped out of community college, and was getting married. It has taken the majority of the time since for me to comprehend that this “normal” path I’ve taken is not a disappointment to God. God didn’t sigh and settle, when I married Sam and eventually became a stay-at-home mom. He doesn’t view the fact that I still haven’t left the continent as “Plan B”.
I realize that every season in life is accompanied by blind spots, and so I am still able to think fondly upon that particular season whence I fell deeply into the love of Jesus. However, I am also thankful that God has since revealed the fallacy behind my belief that holiness is measured by the greatest distance we can achieve from culture.
Following Christ elicits us to say “Yes” to whatever means He’s chosen to sanctify us through. For some, this means serving orphans in a faraway land; for most, however, it means living out the gospel in a 3-bedroom home, as we raise our family and carry out a career. Being set apart from this world, and being a part of this world are not contradicting ideals, but rather the very essence of Jesus’ time on earth. Our goal is all the same, no matter where we’re planted: sanctification, not separation. If any given missionary is more sanctified than us, it isn’t because they have detached themselves from the messiness of this world, but because they have partaken in it. We somehow miss the obvious: that our call to wash other’s feet implies getting our hands dirty. This is the very means by which we are sanctified… And the soil found in India and Afghanistan is not more cleansing than the soil beneath our feet!
The most sanctifying place to be at is the exact place where God has called us: Behind the pulpit, or behind our desk in Psychology 201. Taming Ebola outbreaks, half a world away; or changing our toddler’s diaper. Doing woodwork in a small, Jewish community… or suffering on the cross that would save the world.
I once heard someone say, “It’s not about the pot you’re planted in, it’s whether or not you grow where you’re planted.” Revolutionary roles in God’s kingdom are not sorted by geographical location any more than they are sorted by price tag- they are realized through loving and living in faith. This revelation should not excuse us to live less radically; rather it should inspire us to live more intentionally with eyes to see the mission field surrounding us.
When you quote Jesus’ command to not be “of this world”, don’t forget his prayer that we would also be “in this world”. We are commissioned to evangelism, not escapism; to nurse the very diseases we were healed from; and to be a light in the very darkness we once stumbled through. May we be sanctified where we are at, cleansed by the soil beneath us.