By Hermes C. Fernandes
What should be the right motivation for seeking sanctification? For many, it has been fear; fear of hell, of the devil, of losing salvation, and so on. Others believe they have accumulated merits before God. For these, sanctification is a bargaining chip. If I sanctify myself, I can charge God for whatever I want. This is more about sanctification. Sanctifying oneself on such bases is equivalent to building on quicksand. At any moment, everything falls apart.
The only valid and accepted motivation by God is love. We do not sanctify ourselves for our own benefit, but for others.
In His priestly prayer, Jesus pleaded:
“Sanctify them in your truth; your word is the truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And for them, I sanctify myself, that they too may be sanctified through the truth. ” John 17: 17-19
The holiest of men, even though God was incarnate, had to sanctify himself. Not for Himself, but for the sake of those entrusted to Him by the Father. We must, therefore, follow in His footsteps and seek sanctification for the common good. Paul expresses his desire that the Lord would increase us, and make us “grow in love with one another, and with everyone”, so that, thus, we may become “blameless in holiness before our God and Father” (1 Thessaloniki) .3: 12-13). Our love should not be directed exclusively to the group to which we belong. On the contrary, it must be inclusive. No one should be left out of your reach. Only then will we reach the expected standard of holiness.
If the motivation for sanctification must be love, the result of it must be justice. It is worth remembering that justice is giving each one what is his right. When we recognize the other’s place, without coveting or envying him, but encouraging him to occupy him fully, we are paving the way for the practice of justice in the kingdom of God. In the same epistle in which Paul speaks of growing in love for all, he also says:
“See that no one gives evil to others for evil, but always follow good, towards one another, and towards everyone (…) Abstain from all kinds of evil. And the God of peace himself will sanctify you completely. ” 1 Thessalonians 5:15, 23a
How to love without being willing to benefit the one you love? How to love without being fair? Without following good, towards each other and towards everyone? We become blameless in holiness when we love indistinctly. But, we are completely sanctified when we promote justice without distinction. Loving without practicing justice is like filling your car’s tank to leave it in the garage.
It is not enough to be willing to do good. There must be available for this. The members of our body, previously offered as instruments of iniquity (injustice), presented “from wickedness to wickedness” , must now be presented to “serve justice for sanctification” (Rom.6: 19). We took our tools from the iniquity warehouse to make them available at the justice desk.
To serve justice is to raise your tired hands, your knees wobbly, and make straight paths for your feet, “so that the lame do not deviate, but be healed”. And so, we follow “peace with all and sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12: 12-14).
We are facilitators. Instead of making access difficult, we prefer to make it easier. We are called to be peacemakers, not agitators. We seek and promote peace. However, peace is only possible if preceded by justice. And justice is only established when preceded by love. Backward: love produces justice, and justice produces peace, and both pave the way for sanctification.
The world is rugged terrain, full of mountains and valleys, high and low. God’s plan is to flatten, straighten, and level this terrain. When justice is finally established, there will be no more rich and poor, big and small, dominant, and dominated; therefore, there will be no class struggle or social injustice. As Isaiah prophesied: “Every valley will be exalted, and every mountain and hillock will be cut down, and what is twisted will be made straight, and what is rough will be leveled. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind will see it. because the mouth of the Lord said “(Isa. 40: 4-5). It was with this in mind that Jesus said that without the peace that results from justice and sanctification resulting from love, no one will see the Lord. The terrain needs to be leveled for everyone to see Him. It is not a matter of that vision that we will have of Him on the last day, but of discerning Him on a daily basis, of seeing Him mainly in the other, both in the similar and the different, both in the near and in the distant. For that, we have to plan the path, remove the stones, facilitate access. “Go through, go through the doors; prepare the way for the people; flatten, flatten the road, clean it from the stones” (Is.62: 10). As the Roberto Carlos song sung by the Titans says: “Every stone in the way you can remove. On a flower that has thorns, you scratch yourself. If good and evil exist, you can choose. You have to know how to live.”
Then, what was prophesied by Isaiah will be fulfilled:
“And there will be a road, a path, which will be called the holy way; the unclean will not pass through, but will be for those; walkers, even crazy people, will not miss. ”
Isaiah 35: 8
The unclean is what insists on attributing profanity to life. It is one whose conscience has not been properly purified. After all, “ everything is pure for those who are pure, but for the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; rather, both your mind and your conscience are defiled ” (Titus 1:15). The unclean cannot discern the intrinsic sanctity of the other’s life. He profane it, trivialize it. Therefore, it is unable to treat it fairly. The other’s life is worthless. So what right would he have?
Once again, Paul admonishes us:
“Now, beloved, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting sanctification in the fear of God. Receive us into your hearts; we did no one wrong, nobody corrupted, nobody exploited. ” 2 Corinthians 7: 1-2
Just as we must sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts, we must also receive any human being in our hearts, guaranteeing him a captive seat. In the eyes of the one who loves, all are saints. That is why it is unacceptable to do injustice to any human being or to seek to corrupt or exploit it for our own benefit.
No one should be considered banal, profane, ordinary, impure. As Jesus said to Peter: “Do not call what God has purified”(Ac.10: 15). Europeans felt they had the right to exploit the Indians because they could not see the sacredness of their lives. The same was true of blacks who were made slaves. And with women for centuries. They were not even counted in the censuses. In order to correct this, Pedro instructs husbands to treat their respective wives with honor, recognizing their fragility, and seeing them as co-heirs of the gift of grace and life. As if that were not enough, the apostle threatens the troglodytes that their prayers will not be heard if they refuse to give the woman its due value (1 Pet. 3: 7). Laws like “Maria da Penha” are an attempt to rescue the value and sacredness of women. Documents such as the Statute for Children and Adolescents aim to rescue the original sacredness of children’s life. Unholy child labor is the most beautiful of all ages.
Whoever perceives the inherent sanctity of life, refuses to use anyone for their interests. To use someone is to reify him, seeing him as an object that can later be discarded. Whoever does so, attacks the sacredness of life, trivializing it, desecrating it, debasing it.
It was in this context that Paul says that the will of God is our sanctification, and that, therefore, we must abstain from fornication (1 Thess. 4: 3). Anyone who thinks that fornication is synonymous with sex between singles is wrong. The Greek term is “pornia” which, broadly speaking, means sexual impurity, which can be clearly identified as the reification of sex. Even when married, they can be fornicating when they use each other in the search for pleasure, without considering the feeling and pleasure of the other. Paulo concludes:“May each one of you know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles, who do not know God. Let no one oppressor deceive his brother in any business, because the Lord is an avenger of all these things, as we have said and testified before. Because God did not call us for filth, but for sanctification ” (vv. 4-7). The issue is not sex itself, but using it with a vile aim of oppressing, cheating, harming, taking advantage. Tools other than sex can be perfectly used for the same purpose.
In Ephesians 4: 23-28, Paul opens up the range more:
“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, who according to God is created in true justice and holiness. Therefore, leave the lie, and speak the truth each with your neighbor; because we are members of each other. Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. Give no place to the devil. He who stole, don’t steal anymore; rather work, doing with your hands what is good, so that you have something to share with what you need. ” Ephesians 4: 23-28
Definitely, lying and stealing do not match our new being, recreated according to the image of God, injustice, and holiness. How could we deceive someone without profaning the sanctity of human relationships? How could we harm him without first damaging our own conscience? Rather, we prefer truth to deception, even if it does us harm. We roll up our sleeves and work with the objective of having enough to share with what has nothing. Giving place to the devil is nothing more than committing the sacrilege of allowing him to meddle in our relationships.
May it be the purpose of our heart that, “delivered from the hand of our enemies”, we serve God without fear, “in holiness and justice before him, every day of our lives”(Lk.1: 75). May the enemy of our souls never find space to desecrate the sanctity of our existence. Let us stop seeing life from the perspective of the devil (etymologically, the one who divides, who compartmentalizes, who segregates), and we start to see it from the divine, integrated, whole, holy and full of meaning optics.
* If you have not read the two previous posts, I suggest you do not forget to read them for a better understanding of the topic.