Relevance and Holiness


I recently heard a conversation about whether Christians should abstain from watching certain kinds of movies. The movie that started the whole discussion was The Hangover Part II (rated 10 out of 10 for sex & nudity, 7 for violence, 10 for profanity – see details here). One person was questioning whether someone “called to be holy” should be consuming these sort of things. The other was arguing that he wanted to remain “relevant and relatable” to others.

When does relevance win out over holiness?

Relevance is the regular reason Christians give to engage in less-than-holy behavior. How far should it go? One man’s “I watch raunchy movies to stay relevant,” is another man’s “I go to strip clubs so my friends don’t think I’m a prude.” Does it carry over to illicit drugs? Sleeping around? Doing dirty business if it leads to good money?

Here’s the point: at some point, you must forsake relevance for holiness. You cannot participate in everything the world has to offer, even though wherever you draw the line, it will make you less relevant/relatable.

So here’s my proposal: Draw the line at holiness every time. If you know you have a choice that affirms Christ’s lordship – even if it denies attractive worldly opportunities – make that choice every time.

Frankly, I don’t believe our world needs more “relevant” Christians, if by relevant, you mean living by the same standards as the rest of the world. I believe they desperately need more holy Christians. Don’t read that as self-righteous (acting morally superior to everyone else); read it as holy (fully consecrated to God).

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7 thoughts on “Relevance and Holiness

  1. I remember the “relevance” argument being made around alcohol consumption and Asbury’s previous policy that forbid it for current students. How can we reach people without being willing to join them in their lives people asked?

    I largely agreed, but also found that in the time the policy was in effect I turned down drinks in social settings (a New Orleans bar with friends and the end of a public pier) and found that, a gracious “no” opened the door for conversation. In neither situation did I say anything judgmental, but in one case I helped the guy come back to faith in at least the Church (he attended for about a year after that a couple subsequent conversations) and in the other case a young woman felt compelled to apologize to me for her language and behavior. The second enabled me to talk to them about the nature of Jesus and Christ’s love.

    I have difficulty seeing similar times where being open to drinking facilitated these kind of deeper conversations.

    It seems in some way to remain “relevant” we have to be different, not only in having the Holy Spirit living in us, thanks be to God, but in consistently erring on the side of holiness in this life.

    1. John, you make a great point about the Asbury alcohol policy. I was strongly against the policy and rather resented it. (They had FREE Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale at a wedding reception I went to, and I couldn’t drink it since I was on Asbury’s ethos restriction.) Nevertheless, my abstention opened the door for a lot of good conversations.

      I experienced the same in a college fraternity. Most people thought I was weird for abstaining because I wasn’t 21, but the typical response was, “I respect that.” That simple counter-cultural behavior led to a lot of good conversations and built trust, even though (or because) I wasn’t living the same way as those around me.

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