"Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the God who makes you holy.
There is a concept in business today called "branding" - it carries the idea of the techniques utilized to ensure that the public knows your name, recognizes you as a leader in your industry, etc. Companies invest big money into making sure that they are recognizable in the community they serve by the "brand" they have invested time, talent, and energies into creating. It is kind of like what God said through Moses so many years ago - "Set yourselves apart..." God was telling us to be known by our "branding" - that which makes us uniquely different from those around us and makes people want what it is that we possess.
Although the concepts of "branding" are primarily a marketing technique in the business realm, I think we can draw some parallels in the spiritual.
- First, branding begins with having a quality product that others will want. If the product is shoddy, no matter how much you invest into "branding", it will be a waste of your efforts.
- Second, branding involves being visible in the community. The more you are exposed to the public, the better. Companies invest huge sums of monies and talent into getting their product before the public. Why? It cements the brand with an image.
- Last, branding involves a commitment to provide a product that the community REALLY needs. A market inundated with similar products that are not well-differentiated from other products finds that they will go for that product that requires the least investment on their part - especially if there is no difference appreciable.
Now look at those same ideas from a spiritual perspective:
- Quality products - our passage points out several characteristics that will ensure that our "product" passes the "quality" test. Doing what God tells us and living as God tells us ensures that we have a product that can neither be labeled as "shoddy", not a waste of efforts. Obedience produces within us what all the efforts at self-improvement could not - life transformation. Nothing is more appealing to someone without hope than to see what having a solid basis for hope can produce.
- Visibility - our passage does not imply that we are to live on a commune and never associate with others. Being set apart does not mean that we get "weird". It carries the idea that we have something that makes us "unique" - we stand above the rest. There is clearly a place for association with others in the faith, but that should not be our only association. Others need to see Christ in us - that exposure to Christ may be the only exposure they may have.
- Demand - a product that someone really needs - a unique product that no one else offers. There are a lot of "religions" in the world - organized and informal. What sets us out as unique is the ability of being "holy" as God is holy. Holiness is evident in a life that is changed by the Spirit of God within. The ability to steer clear of the gossip chain, the tendency to shy away from coarse or off-color jokes, or the simplicity of making ethical choices because that is the way you have come to live - these seem simple enough, but they serve to set us apart from other "religions" in the world. It is more than doing good deeds for the sake of doing them - it is a matter of engaging in right conduct because that is what stems from the core of your inner man.
How do we live in such a way that others see something in us that makes them want what we have? We allow God to live in us - we allow him to make us holy (branding at its best!). Set apart lives are not "branded" in some weird way, but are uniquely beautiful and relationally appealing. Others want what we have allowed to be worked out in our lives because they see a sense of hope for their own life. That is what God wants of us - to give the world hope. Hope is best understood when it is exemplified - there is a "product" people can connect with. Believe it or not, you are a "product" of God's grace. Let your life be displayed as set apart for his service, dedicated to his love, and uniquely touched by his grace. Others will be drawn to him through your example.