On Sunday, I shared I had just returned from a visit in Southern California and caught myself thinking of the poem of Suzanne Lummis, “Shangri-La,” in which she contends that Los Angelinos are always young, always suntanned, and always “real,” that LA is inside a plastic snow-globe that never snows. Apart from this, my purpose in LA was to spend time with some very godly people, people more holy than I am. Let me tell you what I mean.
My visit had to do with being a part of a ministry called Lighthouse Medical Missions. This is a ministry, directed by Dr. Robert Hamilton, that gathers skilled physicians to travel to places like Sierra Leone and The Gambia and setup ad hoc medical clinics and pharmacies. Their hope is to bring medical services to those who otherwise would have virtually no access to these services. The event I attended in Los Angeles (Beverly Hills, no less), was to help this ministry encourage Christians to give to it financially.
Now, all joking aside regarding Southern Californian culture, I spent four days with people who so encouraged me by their holiness. As I thought about my own spiritual growth while standing amidst this illustrious crowd, I was humbled. The depth of reach into my own heart from which to extract generosity for others felt shallow. My own care and support for this ministry over the past decade or so seemed empty by comparison. I had the pleasure of spending time with men and women who have given so much for this ministry, touching so many lives. My own weaknesses stood out. Author H. H. Munro tells of a woman who was “rich, as the world counted wealth” and hoped to one day be rich by “her own computation.” I was surrounded by people wealthy by anybody’s computation, yet generous beyond imagining.
We know the measurement of our holiness is really tricky business. In truth, measurement of personal holiness ultimately belongs before the sight of God alone. Eric preached on this reality just weeks ago from the beginning of 1 Corinthians 4. A component part to believing God is our Judge is believing we are not (see Romans 14.10). The healthiest sense we have of our ability to measure our own holiness is our sense of humility (Ephesians 4.2), our sense of contented faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4.17), and our sense that inclines us to assume others are far better than ourselves (Philippians 2.3; Romans 12.10).
I had the honor of spending time last week with extremely generous Christians. Their great regard for impoverished people without medical care, and their disregard for their own time and wealth, was striking to me. Alexander Whyte says that many “serious-minded” people take pains to produce a “true holiness for themselves out of their own corrupt hearts,” which is a lot like “squeezing oil out of flint.” He adds, “measuring holiness is an act of noting the spiritual nature of hearts having been filled with the fullness of that new spiritual nature that is in Christ.”
Here, then, is the key to being around people who may be more holy than you. Look to their “interests” (Philippians 2.4). Help them grow and move forward in holiness. Without “rivalry or conceit” (Philippians 2.3) promote their holiness. Measuring your holiness against their holiness seems small-minded in comparison to praising God for the fullness of the Spiritual nature of the Christian life being revealed right before your eyes!