Camping Is Not Required
I’ve never understood the attraction of camping. Although I have plenty of friends and relatives who are avid campers, it’s always seemed strange to me that someone would work hard all year so they can go live outside for a week. I get the togetherness stuff, but why do it in tents with community toilets?
As an adventure, I sort of understand camping. You strap a pack on your back and go hike God’s creation. Cool. But packing up the van like Noah’s ark and driving to a mosquito infested campground where you reconstitute an inconvenient version of your kitchen and your bedroom just doesn’t make sense. Who decided that vacation should be like normal life, only harder?
Every year our church advertises “family camp.” Every year my wife wants to go, and every year we surprisingly end up in some other state during our church’s allotted week. As best I can tell, the appeal of family camp is that the kids, unbothered by parental involvement, run around free and dirty sunup to sundown—a sort of Lord of the Flies for little Michiganders.
But as appealing as it sounds to have absentee offspring and downtime with my friends, there must be a cleaner, less humid way to export the children for a week (isn’t that what VBS is for?). And even if the kids have a great time, the weather holds up, no one needs stitches, and the seventeenth hot dog tastes as good as the first, it will still be difficult to get all the sand out of my books.
I know there are a lot of die-hard campers in the world. I don’t fault you for your hobby. It’s just not my thing. I didn’t grow up camping. My family wasn’t what you’d call “outdoorsy.” We weren’t against the outdoors or anything. We often saw it through our windows and walked through it on our way to stores. But we never once went camping. We didn’t own a tent, an RV, or Fifth Wheel. No one hunted. No one fished. Even our grill was inside (seriously, a Jenn-Air; look it up).
I’ve been largely ignorant of camping my whole life. And I’m okay with that. It’s one more thing I don’t need to worry about in life. Camping may be great for other people, but I’m content to never talk about it, never think about it, and never do it. Knock yourself out with the cooler and collapsible chairs, but camping is not required of me, and I’m fine without it.
Is Holiness Required?
Is it possible you look at personal holiness like I look at camping? It’s fine for other people. You sort of respect those who make their lives harder than they have to be. But it’s not really your thing. You didn’t grow up with a concern for holiness. It wasn’t something you talked about. It wasn’t what your family prayed about or your church emphasized. So, to this day, it’s not your passion.
The pursuit of holiness feels like one more thing to worry about in your already impossible life. Sure, it would be great to be a better person, and you do hope to avoid the really big sins. But you figure, since we’re saved by grace, holiness is not required of you, and frankly, your life seems fine without it.
The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it. Passionate exhortation to pursue gospel-driven holiness is barely heard in most of our churches. It’s not that we don’t talk about sin or encourage decent behavior. Too many sermons are basically self-help seminars on becoming a better you. That’s moralism, and it’s not helpful. Any gospel which says only what you must do and never announces what Christ has done is no gospel at all.
So I’m not talking about getting beat up every Sunday for watching SportsCenter and driving an SUV. I’m talking about the failure of Christians, especially younger generations and especially those most disdainful of “religion” and “legalism,” to take seriously one of the great aims of our redemption and one of the required evidences for eternal life—our holiness.
Jesus: A Complete Savior
J. C. Ryle, a nineteenth-century Bishop of Liverpool, was right:
We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world. . . . Jesus is a complete Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin, he does more—he breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:10).
My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to. Shouldn’t those most passionate about the gospel and God’s glory also be those most dedicated to the pursuit of godliness?
There is a gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness. This must change. It’s not pietism, legalism, or fundamentalism to take holiness seriously. It’s the way of all those who have been called to a holy calling by a holy God.
This article is adapted from The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung.