I am reticent to say the “Lord Said” and have nothing short of admiration for those who can consistently make such references with absoluteness. Consequently, I will say with all alacrity and hopefully appropriate humility that I believe the following was a providentially inspired thought.
In and around 1982 when I felt a call to initiate a new venture in ministry, I petitioned the Lord in plain language to tell me how this new ministry step should look and how I should approach it. In reality, I felt overwhelmed by the whole proposition. Should the new work be planted under in connection with my traditional faith affiliation, or would a more non-traditional approach be preferable? I had major questions in my mind about “style” and “type” and “presentation”. The assurance I eventually received was that all that I had experienced up to that point spiritually and secularly was preparation for moving forward.
Well, that’s not a surprise to anyone but at that young age it was just the comfort I sought. I would use who I was, my own style, and bring it to bear in a new ministry context. Numerous other matters became clearer but the most distinguishing thought was that the teaching and modeling I should seek to offer would be a “holiness” lifestyle. Which is just an old fashion way of saying with all of my many frailties and faults, strive to live a life reflecting the teaching of Christ as much as I could.
Inherent in the directive was instruction to avoid presenting a hammer approach in seeking to point others to Christ. Cynthia James needed to move out of the way to avoid being a hindrance to the magnetism of Christ. It was just the phrase I needed and has been a goal for me to pursue from those earliest days in ministry. Admittedly, I’ve had varying success.
I always felt that the Lord typically allowed me to perceive things in mental phrases which I called “headlines”. In today’s rubric they would be more like weak tweets that aren’t self-explanatory.
No matter how obscure they’ve served as guiding phrases for decision-making in life and ministry.
“Holiness without a hammer” was a prescription for me and directly to me but not one to be laid upon others through judgmental or critical statements. Nothing about the phrase suggested a lessening of standards or a denying of faith but it was a constraint about how to interact with others. After all, we are the Lord’s people. Those He loved enough to die for – how dare I ever swing the anvil.
In this age, we have blurred the lines and some assume that a holiness stance is automatically judgmental. I don’t doubt that many shy away from use of the word. In this instance it called me to make right judgments and choices but to be cautious in how I related to others in ways that were not done so oppressively or legalistically. Holiness has its own light!