“He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” (Ephesians 5:27)
Purity may be defined as holiness. Holiness is said to be separated to something, in this case to God. It doesn’t mean we live in cloisters. Separateness means to be faithful. Holiness is being faithful. If we are married we are faithful to our spouse. This means in mind and in body. We are set apart for each other. This faithfulness is holiness. Holiness to God means being faithful to him. We enjoy the world but we don’t put anything in the world before him and his purpose.
We are living in a time when holiness is being mocked. Holiness is said to be the old values of a church which just seeks control. In mocking the church holiness is thrown off. The values of human entitlement have replaced the values of holiness. Instead of our duty to a loving God who gives us all things, we speak about our entitlement to do as we please. There is no love in this, except for love of self. God calls us to love of community.
No doubt the church has done wrong. It often hasn’t spoken for the weak. It has often stood like a Pharisee against the sinner, rather than in support of sinners. The church has often been isolated and self-serving and condemned its enemies, whereas Jesus served the world. Actions like these have discredited the church and made the world grow cold towards the church. This has caused many people to review their beliefs and their way of understanding scripture. They have seen that holiness is about how we care for others, not just about our moral imperatives. When we are holy, separated to God, we are faithful to his heart to love the weakest, the stranger, and the foreigner. When the church doesn’t care, its other moral imperatives look meaningless.
So we the church have a job to do, and this job will likely be fulfilled in the midst of persecution, in a world in which the church has lost political power. But when we are persecuted we aren’t to cry out for ourselves. Jesus said we are to go the second mile, to pray for those who persecute us and bless them: “when you are sued for your coat, offer your shirt as well.” The church is putting on new cloths: care for others and not for itself. Our job is twofold: to serve and love the world, while being a witness against the folly of the world’s self-serving corrupting values. The way we are this witness is through our own lives.
The world is corrupt. In saving ourselves from this present evil age we are to be witnesses. What does this salvation look like? It is salvation from the corruption: both the corruption of self-centred withdrawnness, and the corruption of impure lives. To be short: salvation from the corruption of self-centeredness, to reflect the image of his love.