Leviticus 20:7-8 (ESV) – 7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you.
The water was cold, and my heart beat so profoundly that it’s echo reverberated in my ears.
When I was 10 years-old, I went whitewater rafting for the first time. I had just made the weight requirement, and I couldn’t wait to join my dad on the raft. It started off great. The Nantahala River was quick but manageable for a rookie. We had a warm summer sun greeting us at every turn juxtaposed perfectly with the cool crisp water. I had been anxious, but over the course of the afternoon, I had calmed down and was enjoying the adventure.
Then we came to the second to last rapid of the day, and the raft ahead of us had gotten marooned on a large, protruding rock. They were stranded, and as was the custom, the closest, most capable next raft was to knock them off, which meant we were up to bat. My dad, as the guide, put us in perfect position, and we successfully freed the stranded party but in doing so managed to get our raft completely flipped over and lodged on the rock. I scurried my tiny, drenched, 60 pound frame on the underside of the boat, which was now the top-side, shaking and totally frightened by the power of the river. I couldn’t go on. I didn’t finish the run… I walked the rest of the way while the team shot the last rapid.
I have since gone down that and other rivers numerous times, and I have yet to hit the water again. I’ve seen others go in and have to back-float to safety. But I haven’t. Yet, the indelible image of that day left me with an intense respect for the power of those Class II and III rapids.
As scary as ending up in the rapids can be, the current of culture is swifter and more powerful. In the Scripture today, Moses is in the process of warning the Hebrews against adopting the practices of the people already occupying the Promised Land. The Canaanite people (Canaanite being a general term for all the people living in the land of Canaan, which was made up of several people groups), had a god called Molech who, according to custom, required a child sacrifice to be appeased in worship. This was as detestable practice then as we can imagine it would be, and God had warned the Israelite people not to fall for it. They were to be different, consecrated, holy, and living according to the rule and law of God which said that murder was absolutely prohibited.
Of course, the Israelites failed, but the call to differentness is the same for followers of Jesus. No matter what the current of culture, it is God’s rule which should prevail in our lives. I think about the rapids of our society with change coming at such a pace that we barely have time to think about the consequences or what it all means. Standards of faith are bombarded by the torrent of the “new,” and we are left wondering where to stand, and how to stand, and if it’s even possible to stand. The response of some is to pick one cultural battle and stake their faith claim on that field all the while apathetically surrounding to scores of others.
That’s not enough, and I admittedly fail at it. I fall in the drink and get swept away, one breaker at a time. When I’m convicted to change, it’s so difficult to float to the safety of the shore, but by the Holy Spirit I try.
My question for myself, and the question I think all followers of Jesus need to wrestle with is simply this: how am I to be different, set apart, and holy in the ever-flowing river of the world?