In church worship, I am singing, “Holy is his name,” with a thousand other people, some with their hands raised, others with bowed heads, and one who isn’t restraining her tears. A few are looking around as if they’d rather be somewhere else. Why? The words are on the screen, and the music is easy enough to follow. Are the words that strange? To some, maybe so, but they’re good, religious words that make me feel good.
I can’t imagine turning to my best friend and saying, “Holy is your name.” I have a friend named Holly, but I’d never call her Holy, because that’s not her name. Calling her smart, sweet, or silly would be okay, but it seems that holy is a word that belongs only to God.
Name calling is what we do to express our feelings, a useful tool in strengthening or severing a relationship. I might say, “You’re wonderful,” or “You’re a jerk,” but I must be ready to answer the question: Why do you think that? If God were to ask, “Why do you think I’m holy?” I’d like to have the right answer.
What does holy mean, anyway? Webster says it describes someone who is “worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness,” but many Christians can’t explain why bad things happen to good people. They don’t see God as good and righteous in every situation, causing all things to work for good for those who love him.
People may sing “Holy Is His Name” because (1) everyone else is singing, (2) the words feel good, even if they don’t know their meaning, (3) they believe it will be true someday, just not yet, or perhaps (4) they know God well enough to express who he is and can answer why.
I’m striving for that last option.