The evening of October 31st, or Hallowe’en, marks the beginning of All Saints Day. All Saints Day is observed by various Christian groups, and is most often a remembrance of canonized saints. These are believers who meet criteria set by the denomination celebrating them. Generally, these criteria involve especial holiness, the performance of miracles, exceptional works of service, and the like.
Growing up Catholic, I heard saints mentioned from time to time. They seemed like mythical heroes, people unequaled by the rest of us mortals. They were the A-Team, first string Christians. The rest of us were the peasantry of Christianity. We got by on the scraps that fell from the saints’ table. They were the in-crowd, and you could go to God’s party if one of them let you tag along.
When I started reading the Bible as an adult, I was surprised to find Paul and other authors addressing everyone as saints. Ephesians 1:1 is an example: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.” Paul viewed everyone at the church in Ephesus as a saint.
The word “saint” is related to words meaning “holy” and “sanctified.” Most of us don’t feel especially holy most days. It is easy to think this word describes other people who are extra close to God. The word “saint” lends itself to creating a class system in Christianity. But this thinking is based in our fallen perspective and not the Spirit.
Further study taught me why we cannot see holiness in degrees of more and less. Holiness, or sainthood, is not based on sterling morals, whether we do miracles, or on philanthropic achievement. Christ is holiness. If Christ is in you, you are holy; you are a saint (1 Cor. 1:30). If we require more than that, we require more than Christ.
I acknowledge that God calls some to walk with Him in a way that is out of the ordinary. But I question placing people into a ranking system. If you and I are both used in the way God intended, and if we both manifest Christ, who is better? It would be like saying a screwdriver is better than a hammer.
Jesus’s disciples argued about who was the greatest, and who should sit at His right and left. Jesus didn’t respond by laying out a program for achieving spiritual greatness. He didn’t say, “Well, if keep your nose clean, feed a lot of poor people, and do a few miracles, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll get to sit next to me.” He responded by telling His disciples to lower themselves and serve everyone else (Mark 10:43-45). In Revelation, John sees those right around the throne throw their crowns down, fall on their faces, and worship Jesus. It’s pretty hard to rank people who are all on the floor (Rev. 4:10).
This year on All Saints Day, I’m remembering that we’re all saints, every day. Only One has been anointed with the oil of joy above His companions, and that is Christ (Psalm 45:7; Heb. 1:8-9). Only He is elevated above all.