There’s an old saying that most Lutherans are “more Lutheran than Christian.” I think it’s true, and it probably holds for more than just Lutherans.

If we’re not careful, we run the risk of sacralizing our traditions and elevating them above our namesake.

I come from a holiness tradition and, though things were certainly looser in my day, we originally prided ourselves on the absence of jewelry and makeup, worldliness and vice.

We were holier than Jesus, which wasn’t hard because Jesus wasn’t terribly holy.

Consider that Jesus “sinned” in at least four ways:

He blasphemed (Matthew 26.65), he violated the Sabbath (Mark 3.1-6), he associated with the unclean (Mark 2.16), and he cussed (Matthew 5.22).

  • Jesus also demonstrated at least four spectacular cases of poor judgment:
  • Jesus drank too much (called a glutton and drunkard in Luke 7.34)
  • Jesus partied too much (friend of sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes: Matthew 9.11, Luke 7.36-50)
  • Jesus didn’t encourage his followers to fast or pray “enough” (Mark 2.18)
  • Jesus reinterpreted scripture to suit his own purposes, desires, and context (Luke 4.17)

I imagine you’re reading this and a suspicion is taking root that I deny the sinless perfection of Christ. I do not. My point is that Christ corrected the aberrant definitions of sin espoused by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of religious law. He was sinful according to their interpretation of Torah, but not according to Torah itself—not when you understood the intent of the Father.

The issue comes down to your definition of holiness. If you think of holiness as austerity, then yes, you can be holier than Christ. But if you examine the life of Christ, you’ll realize he defined holiness relationally.

Holiness is wholeness, the shalom of well-ordered relationships between us and God, us and others, us and ourselves, and us and Creation. These are the primary relationships in scripture, and they are the ecosystem of Christian holiness.

  • God
  • Self
  • Others
  • The World

Consider that, in any relationship, you must have certain ingredients in order to be healthy: mutual respect, honesty, integrity, etc. All “camps” of holiness understand this; however, those who over-value austerity forget that you cannot have a healthy relationship without the following qualities also:




And, somehow, in all our striving to be holier, we’ve forgotten that love and joy are sweet bedfellows, that laughter and godly mischief are playmates, and that friendship cannot be isolated from adventure.

“Be holy, for I am Holy”

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!”

“Love one another as I have loved you.”