As you approach an intersection while driving, you notice a strange thing. The familiar red, hexagonal sign is there. The funny thing is there are no words on it. It’s a bit odd, but you know exactly what it is saying: “Stop.” You may not think much of it, but pretty soon you notice other traffic signs as well. The yellow triangle; the orange one with hard hats, and so forth. None of them have words on them, but you still know what they are telling you: “Yield,” “Caution – Men Working.” There’s a common understanding that permeates everyone’s awareness about what those shapes and colors really mean. The words are certainly a help, especially for those who are new to driving or new to the community. But even without the words, the meaning is clear and recognition is quick.
We’ve put words to the various dimensions of God’s holiness, especially how it is expressed through our own daily living. But if we take away the words, the message remains clear. People – those who follow Christ and those who do not – recognize characteristics that are attributable to God whether we use words or not. The message remains clear, and people resonate with that message.
We may assign words like sanctification, or perfection, or spirit-filled, or eradication, to name a few. In some cases they may actually confuse the new folks in the community. But whether there are words attached or not, the message comes through loud and clear: pure, loving, consumed, useful. Indeed, God has not left people without a witness to His innate holiness. Even without words, the character of our holy God is evident, and it connects with people, whether they are learned navigators with a big vocabulary or new to the Way and don’t even know the words.
It’s both sobering and encouraging to know that whether we have great learning in the community of holiness or not, we may become wordless signs that convey the meaning and fullness of God’s holy nature guiding others on their way to wholeness.
Kevin W. Mannoia