Imitating Each Other

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:15–16

Peter was nearing the end of his life when he wrote the two epistles bearing his name. He wrote this, his first letter, to encourage believers in Christ Jesus as they suffered challenges, insults and persecution.

As he wrote, Peter thought of the words God had given to Moses at Mount Sinai for his covenant people, Israel: “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). Among the many dimensions of this covenant relationship was a marital-type union. In effect, God was wedding himself to Israel and moving into her midst to reside in the tabernacle.

Most of us don’t enjoy reading the book of Leviticus. It feels tedious and foreign, with a lot of attention paid to housekeeping, cooking and hygiene. That is not accidental. Newlyweds realize quickly that much of wedded bliss is spent in domestic engineering—who will cook, who will clean, will we squeeze or roll up the toothpaste tube, and the like. It is actually gratifying to think that God wants to be close enough to us to care about our daily health and well-being.

Perhaps that is why wives and husbands often begin to look more like one another over time. They spend so much time together; they eat the same meals, exercise together (or not), and influence each other’s wardrobes. Yet marriage should never rob us of our individuality. A relationship in which one partner is manipulated into subservience at the expense of selfhood is not what God intends. Authentic love affirms the good in the other and truly seeks to serve. When love includes genuine give-and-take between husband and wife, each influences the other.

The point of 1 Peter 1:15–16 is that if we are married to God, we will begin to look more like God and act in ways that reflect God’s character and values. Deep love imitates.

So it goes in a good marriage. There are words I acquired from my wife that I didn’t think to use 25 years ago. There are dates scheduled in my wife’s planner that she would never have thought important before we were married. Our tastes for foods have become much the same, and our expectations for vacations nicely match.

Probably the best imitation of love, as Peter noted, is the way we gain stabilizing depth in our relationships over time so that our baser inclinations are tamed. The longer we are married to God, the holier we become. The longer we are wed to our partner, the less likely we are to engage in secretive and self-destructive habits.

Marriage can’t make flawed people perfect, but it can clean us up. As A. E. Housman put it: “When I was in love with you, then I was clean and brave; and miles around the wonder grew how well I did behave.”

Drawn from a devotion in the Couples’ Devotional Bible.

What does it mean to be holy? How might someone visiting our home sense an atmosphere of holiness? Read the online conversation / post a comment below!

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