Here is a question I’ve been wondering about recently: Do we believe that holiness is the key to happiness?
That used to be a bedrock Methodist belief. The reason we wanted to help men and women become holy was because we believed that the secret to true, lasting, and invincible happiness was to be holy, as God created us to be. This was our prescription for the illnesses that weighed down the soul and blighted the world.
Of course, it has always been true that huge numbers of people do not agree with either the diagnosis or the prescription. They stoned the prophets and murdered Jesus, after all. Holiness as the key to happiness and cure for the world have always faced strong opposition and evangelists of rival gods. Hollywood and Madison Avenue and the Pentagon have always promised us other ways.
Here is what we used to say. God created us to live in peace, joy, and happiness with God and each other. We are none of those things because we are slaves to sin and death. The solution cannot be found in our own good works, something we buy, or even by banding together into communities dedicated to righteousness. The solution is God. What we lack, and often do not even seek, is communion with God. The name of the peace and happiness that so eludes us is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Now, here is the problem. If you look at the church, it is not often a very good billboard for the life of happiness, peace, and joy that God offers. You cannot blame the world when it doubts that we have discovered the secret of happiness. It is the task of the church to always be an imperfect reflection of the perfect happiness it proclaims.
That we do often fail to embody holiness is a grievous problem, but it is an entirely different problem than no longer believing in holiness itself.
So, I find myself wondering, do we believe in holiness still?