I am currently reading A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law. It is an 18th century Puritanesque writing about the daily practice of living a holy, pious life.
As I have paged through the book, I have found myself constantly challenged by the thought process that it is possible - and of course desirable - to live a holy life. This is an unusual thought because it is certainly not something that comports with most works that one reads today. The idea that one could live a life on a daily basis which seeks to be holy is, ironically, revolutionary in an age of secularism and satisfaction of the individual as the highest form of good.
It has made me reflect at some length of my own particular life. What I have found is not that pleasing.
What reading and reflecting on this book has made me realize is how comfortable I have become with sin in my own life. I could come up with particular things to blame - a culture of hedonism, a culture of entertainment, a thought pattern where I am that which matters - but really it comes back to the fact that I am a sinner and as such, I sin.
What bothers me is how in reading this the fact does not bother me more. Sin has become so ingrained in parts of my character that the thought of living without it seems virtually impossible. The thought of living a day free from those besetting sins like envy, gossip, greed, and the others seems unattainable.
Take a simple one: gossip. Could I go a single day without gossiping - and not just the way I like to define "gossip" but all the aspects of gossip that I use to soften the blow of what I'm doing: soliciting information, blowing off steam, counseling others, being a resource? Could for one day I simply go to work, work, say nothing except positive things about everyone and then go home?
Now multiply that for every sin that I face in my life and you begin to taste extent of my challenge as I look inside of my soul.
This is odd thing: a devout and holy life - a pious life, as Law often refers to it - is a far more difficult thing than many people can imagine. It requires the daily and constant exorcising of our own besetting sins. It requires a single minded devotion to Christ and an almost minute by minute consideration of the activities and thoughts of one's life: "Is this what I am to be doing? Am I honoring Christ in this?" It requires the endurance of a long distance runner, the strength of a Highland athlete, the attention to detail of an Iaido practitioner. In other words, it is the spiritual representation of the physical activities I love to do - and in doing those, I begin to understand how challenging it can really be.
My parting thought for the day on this: what would the testimony of Christianity be if, instead of looking like the world around us or looking like the way the world perceives 18th century devout people looked, we were the manifestation of 21st century Christians living a devout and holy living, dedicated to the thing of God, obedience to His will, and seeking His kingdom above our own? Could there be any doubt that, at least, the distinction between the world and the church and the question of the power of God to change lives would at not at least be on display for all to see?