Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 7, 2012


What we may learn from the derisive label “Holy Joe”


        I am not sure about the origin of the term “Holy Joe.” It may have a military background since chaplains are often labeled “Holy Joes.” Priests and pastors are sometimes called “Holy Joes.”

        In common life the expression is used to belittle someone believed to be sanctimonious – or in street language “holier-than-thou.” So when someone seems overly pious and self-righteous, others may tag them a “Holy Joe.”

        Few are the people who are eager to be known for their “holiness.” Even devout Christians want to be seen as “real” people, not “Holy Joes” who are out of touch with the real world. Most of us have a sort of aversion to holiness. Leave that sort of stuff to the monks and the nuns.

Yet if we are honest we must admit that God expects his people to be holy. Period. End of discussion. There is no way around the truth that Christians are expected to live holy lives.

Examine the word “holy” and you find it basically means to be “different.” And God expects Christians to live by different standards than those who profess no faith in God.

So holiness is the name of the game for Christians. Yet this is where it gets embarrassing; for many Christians intentional holy living is more an expectation than a reality. There is much truth in the stinging rebuke of many that Christians live no differently than their pagan neighbors.  

        Our humanistic culture spoofs at the idea of holiness. The culture says, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die. Enjoy yourself. Do not endure the foolish restraints of the Christian faith. Do what you want to do. Do what feels good. If there is a God out there, he wants you to enjoy life. So have fun while you can because this life is all there is.”

        Hedonists, lovers of pleasure, ridicule the concept of “sacrifice.” Their advice to “look out for Number One; take care of yourself and get all you can for yourself.”

        Nevertheless God calls his people to holy living in every dimension of life. To settle for anything less, then, is to disappoint God.

        To commit oneself to the pursuit of holiness every day is not easy. Christian values are constantly ridiculed, and there is pressure on all sides to give up the silly notion of living “Christlike” lives. Accept the reality, we are told, that ours is a pluralistic society in which Christian values simply do not fit anymore. We should give them up for the sake of “unity.”

        Perhaps that is why Christians need to study the Bible in earnest. The teaching of Saint Peter, for instance, is most helpful. The Apostle knew the difference between corruptible and incorruptible things. Once Peter got to know Christ his values changed.

        Silver and gold were no longer precious to him. Nothing was more precious than the blood of Christ, the blood by which Christians have been redeemed to become children of God.

        Peter hammers home the idea that Jesus died for all people and that salvation was purchased by his blood. Jesus was so much more than a great example, a great thinker and a great moral leader. In his suffering, death and resurrection, Peter tells us, God made Jesus the great Cornerstone of our faith. There is no one else like him; the Cornerstone is the most important stone in a building!

            Observe with profit Peter’s use again of the word “precious.” Some reject Jesus. Believers, however, consider him precious, far more valuable than silver and gold. That is why we can say, with great feeling, “When you have Jesus, you have everything!”

             When Jesus becomes more precious than anything else in the world, people are motivated to take seriously God’s calling to live not by worldly standards but as “lively stones” in a “spiritual house” in which Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone.

             When he is the Crown Jewel of our lives then we want to please him by living holy lives. Rather than being embarrassed about being labeled “peculiar,” we find joy in living as “a royal priesthood” and “a holy nation.” Both these terms have to do with belonging to and serving God. When we live like this people may view us as “peculiar” but they may also recognize that we belong to Jesus Christ and that we live to serve Him. That is when holiness becomes an authentic testimony to the living God.    

             There is after all something more important than what other people may call us or think of us. What matters is what God thinks of us. At the end of the day, to be found faithful by God will make insignificant some person’s ridicule for our pursuit of holiness. We just need to make sure that daily we are busy serving Christ, not looking in a mirror adjusting our halo.  + + +