In Leviticus 11:44b, God commands us: “…be holy, because I am holy.” In the course of human history, people have striven in every way imaginable to be holy. No human effort, however, can produce holiness. When we think of holiness, many of us think of purity, absolute cleanliness, sanctity — as if holiness were some kind of sanitized condition. In fact, holiness is not that at all — holiness is actually a condition which has never been defiled and can therefore never be sanitized. That is why even our most vigorous attempts at rule-keeping and spiritually purifying ourselves can never generate holiness. Holiness is part of the DNA of God. The good news is that He gives us Himself, complete with His DNA, through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God declares in Exodus 31:13b: ” … I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” God Himself, the One who has never known sin, makes us holy.
If we desire holiness in our relationships with other people, we must cultivate it the same way God planted holiness in us — by honoring them. Honor is the key to holiness. God honored us by dying for us when we were unclean and unrepentant, when we least deserved His attention and forgiveness. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He honored us supremely by bestowing His love and favor upon us when we were in a completely degenerate condition. When we trusted Him and received His gift of love, His holiness invaded our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, holiness in our relationships with others is dependent on honor. If we will seek to honor others in our speech and actions, irrespective of whether that honor is deserved or not, relationships of safety and trust will develop. When a person feels honored (respected, validated, and loved), he feels safe in a relationship. Safety and trust then open the way for holiness in that relationship. Holiness is not something that previously was defiled that I can sanitize (despite my best efforts!); holiness is the presence of God Himself as He releases His nature in and through us.