I recently heard US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s eloquent comments on the “weaponization of Scripture to justify bigotry” at a legislative committee hearing held about five months ago. It was an interesting speech in which she argued as a woman of faith that Christianity should uphold and not debase each human being’s worth.
I agree with her assertion that we Christians should never bludgeon others with the word of God to make them conform to our beliefs, or shame them with “cherry-picked” Bible passages into altering their lifestyles to suit our expectations. She is correct to say that Christ taught us to love our neighbors and, especially, to love our enemies. She accurately observes that Christ’s teaching on unconditional love (or agape, in the original Greek) was revolutionary, and that if He came to us today, He would be labeled a radical. God’s brand of love transcends our human understanding.
However, I am disturbed by her claim that “all human beings are holy and sacred.”
Scripture reveals that we are all created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-28), yet due to sin we all fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Holiness is an attribute that is uniquely God’s; He alone defines what is holy. Though it is a trait God allows us to share (in fact, wants us to share), it is a gift we receive in humility, not achieve by self-will. None of us is inherently holy. If we were, then God would not repeatedly enjoin us to “Be holy, for I am holy…” (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 1 Pet. 16).
Sin separates us from God; obedience to Him reconciles us. In the Old Testament, the Israelites offered “holy” sacrifices on God’s altar as an act of worship, repentance, and consecration. Matthew 23:19 says, “The altar sanctified the gift,” which, put differently, means that only that which is dedicated to God becomes sacred. Therefore, the apostle Paul calls on Christians to offer ourselves as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” as our “spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1). By devoting ourselves wholly to God, we become holy and sacred.
AOC claims that human holiness and sacredness are “unconditional.” Scripture says otherwise. It is our love for God that must be unconditional. Jesus commands us to “love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind…” (Matt. 22:37). This is the first and the greatest commandment. Before anything else, love God with all your being. Be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for our sins. Build a deep relationship with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Bear His image and likeness for all the world to see. Find your identity in Him. Be salt and light and make a difference where you live. Love what He loves, and whom He loves. This is how humans become holy.
It is erroneous to think that because we are made in God’s image and likeness, we are innately holy and sacred. We must realize that our sin blurs God’s image in us. Jesus clarifies it. Human holiness describes the condition of one who is in an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Only God is truly holy; and only as we are reconciled with Him through Christ and give Him pre-eminence in our lives can we hope to be holy and sacred ourselves.
I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12: 1-2