Sainthood: Myths and Truths

Sainthood: Myths and Truths

Sainthood: Myths and Truths.

What is a saint? A willing member of the holy priesthood of all believers; every believer who is determined to be in the Lord’s sanctification process; a follower of Jesus who is intentionally living into holiness; a disciple of Christ who accepts being assigned by God for a sacred purpose; a holy person, set apart for service to God; a humble believer who reminds others of God’s presence in the world; an imperfect person who is designated to represent a perfect God.

Myth #1 – Saints are only those who are intensely pious, more spiritual, and are super-Christians.

Truth #1 – “Holy is the best word we have for the all-encompassing, all-embracing life of God that transforms us into a uniquely formed and set apart people. Holy is never a pious abstraction. Holiness cannot be reduced to an emotional devotional experience that we cultivate in order to “feel spiritual.” Holiness is an invitation to enter into what God is doing and intending to get done in the world. And it’s for everyone. Holiness is not targeted to an elite spiritual aristocracy.”  (Eugene Peterson, The  Jesus Way).


Myth #2 – Saints don’t want to be tainted by the world as they live into holiness. 

Truth #2 – Jesus went out of His way to touch the untouchables. He was a friend of sinners, and all those rejected by the religious establishment. Jesus talked with them. He lived with them. He was unafraid to be blemished in some way by His contact with the sinful. On the other hand, Jesus never compromised His character. He never joined in with the sinful life, even when tempted. He kept Himself clean while engaging with the unclean. That’s a picture of sainthood. Someone willing to provide the presence of a pure God in the midst of an impure world. Someone who rubs shoulders with the dishonorable in order to bring the light of healing and hope, forgiveness and redemption. (SL).


Myth #3 – Saints tend to be glum and overly serious, because they don’t know how to have fun

Truth #3 – These Christians are a quiet and holy people. They have discovered a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasures of this sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world.” (Cyprian of Carthage, 250 AD).   “From gloomy Christians, Lord, deliver us.” (Teresa of Avila).


Myth #4 – Saints are all tame and domesticated, living a bland life with no personality of their own.

Truth #4 – Holiness is wild  and undomesticated. Holiness is an interior fire, a passion for living for God, a capacity for exuberance in living out the life of God in the details of our day-to-day lives. Holy is not a word that drains the blood out of life. It’s a word that gets the blood pumping, pulsing life through our veins and putting color in our cheeks.”  (Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way).


Myth #5 – Being set apart, saints tend to live at a distance from the everyday world and real life. 

Truth #5 – Human beings are called to holiness because God their Creator is holy. God is indeed distant from the world, is transcendent, set apart, distinctive. But He is also vitally present and active within the world. Rabbi Sacks called it a “calibrated distance.” Just as God remains present in daily life despite being set apart, saints are called to live in and be active in the world. God does not participate in the unholy, because of His purity. Saints are not to participate in the unholy because we have put on Christ, wearing our new nature. Saints do not make peace with unholy alliances of any sort. Saints are intentionally involved in God’s sanctifying process, remaining saints-in-making, holy servants of God in everyday life. (SL).


Myth #6 – Saints are too narrow-minded to live a well-rounded, beautiful life. 

Truth #6 – “The new thing in this little Jewish community in Eastern Europe (during the 18th and 19th centuries) was that holiness, the highest of all values, became so real and so concrete that it became as perceptible as beauty. How was it possible not to feel the presence of God in the world? How could one fail to see that the whole earth is full of His glory? Such longing for the higher endowed them with an almost superhuman quality. They did not write songs, they themselves were songs. They often lacked outward brilliance, but they were full of hidden light.”  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Earth is the Lord’s).


Myth #7 – Sainthood is not meant for everyone. You have to be specially called to be a saint.

Truth #7 – “All of us, if we only knew it, are on a hunt for the holy, for a life that cannot be reduced to the way we look or what we do or what others think of us. We are after something – more life than we get simply by eating three meals a day, getting a little exercise, and having a decent job. We’re after the God-originated and God-shaped life – a holy life.” (Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way).   “If you consult your own soul with complete honesty, you will see that there is one and only one reason why  you are not even now a saint: You do not wholly want to be.”  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life).


Myth #8 – Saints are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.

Truth #8 – How did Christ live here on earth? He did good deeds. He healed everyone within reach, and some who were long-distance. He liberated the demon-possessed. He sought out those on the margins. Since Christians are called to be “little Christs,” (C. S. Lewis), a believer is one who does much the same as the Master. Ever since Christianity was established, believers have been pioneers in human care. They created the first hospital, the first hospice, the first prison reform, the first crisis pregnancy center, and have had the most direct hand in developing those institutions ever since. Christians were the first to run to the aid of plague victims in the Middle Ages. They brought and developed learning to unlearned populations. They established health care in leper colonies. The list goes on. Christians are the opposite of all-talk and no-action. Believers have the same inner promptings to demonstrate compassion as Jesus . Christians have excelled at initiating mercy and kindness wherever it is needed. Believers have been of immense earthly good wherever they have lived.  (SL).


Myth #9 – Saints are self-righteous, proud of their saintliness, holier than thou, and love publicity.

Truth #9 – “A saint is a human being released from the love of self and enslaved by the love of God.”  (Douglas Steere).  “Saints learn to be unknown.” (Thomas A’Kempis, The Imitation of Christ).


Myth #10 – A saint is basically a nice person who does good things, an eager activist in righteous causes.

Truth #10 – A saint is one who is picking out a new spiritual wardrobe, priestly garments of splendor. Saints are in the process of taking off their old nature and putting on their new nature in Christ. Saints wear a robe of righteousness and are clothed in Jesus. They are not merely putting on a comfortable costume. saints aren’t merely playing a part in a religious play. The new wardrobe is not just for appearance’s sake to look good. Putting on Christ means a saint’s outer life of virtue is in synch with his or her inner life of faith. That’s why wearing Christ transcends a generic goodness intended for cultural acceptance. The saint seeks to emulate Christ, demonstrating the very character of God, not participating in whichever social goodness is trending. (SL).


Myth #11 –  It is pretty much impossible to live the life of a saint, to live the holy life. 

Truth #11 –  Everyday saintly actions in the holy priesthood of all believers:

  1. Bring God to the People: Demonstrate God’s character through the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23); Develop a lifestyle of blessing others in God’s Name.
  2. Bring the People to God: Intercede for others through disciplined prayer; Remind others of God’s presence in the world through word and deed.
  3. Offer yourself Daily as a Living Sacrifice:  Read God’s mind by studying Scripture;  Minister to “one another” in God’s Name;  Offer up a constant sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
  4. Put On Christ as your Priest’s Clothing: Take off the Old You in sin, rejecting the attitudes and behavior of the old nature; Put on the New You in Christ, growing in faith and goodness.    (SL).