In addition to fear in response to Christ, there was also tendency to shy away from His holiness; the desire to be distanced from it. The example is given of Simon Peter, immediately after Jesus calmed the storm, falling to his knees before Jesus, saying, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" (Lk. 5:8) Sproul discusses how this display by Simon Peter is indicitive of the discomfort one feels when, compared to pure holiness, their own deep sinfulness is exposed. Such discomfort is demonstrated even further in the Pharisees, who fancied themselves very holy, but when the Holy Messiah Himself came among them with an honest rebuke regarding the falseness and putrescence of their so-called holiness they felt threatened and angry to the point of seeking to rid themselves of His presence by means of murder. Their pride would not be humbled, and, though they claimed to love holiness, they were proven to hate it with a passionate hatred when it faced them directly and exposed them as frauds. This is the way all of us feel about Christ's holiness, apart from reconcilliation to Him. It holds us to a standard which we know, deep down, we don't measure up to. For the unbeliever, God's holiness is so repulsive that, for many, even the nearness of one of His children unbearable. For some this manifests itself as a discomfort around believers- a feeling that one must walk on eggshells so as to not offend the Christian (e.g. apologizing embarrassedly if a swear word slips out). And for others, their discomfort with the idea of holiness is evident by their bold hatred, sometimes even a violent hatred, of Christians and Bible truth.
For instance, I recall my Dad sharing with me his own view of Christians before his salvation took place. As a college student in the late 1960's, he would often see young people from the "Jesus Movement" standing around on campus handing out pamphlets and speaking with the students about the gospel. At the sight of this, my Dad says he would become so angry to the point of hatred of those people, and had a vehement desire to hollar and curse at them (which, I think he actually did do...) In his mind, these folks were self-righteous and ignorant- but the crux of the matter was that because he was still lost in his own sinful state, the very idea of Christians attempting to share with him a holy gospel made him cringe bitterly. The truth which they spoke of came way too close to exposing his sin to him, and he hated them for that. Hard to believe that someone as angry as my dad would wind up both saved and working fervently for the cause of Christ's Kingdom just a few years after that; but, such is God's grace. Dad was at a friend's house for a drug deal in the early 70's. In the next room, the sister of his friend and some others were reading the Bible aloud. The passage was John 8, regarding the woman caught in adultery. When the Pharisees wanted to stone an adulterous woman to death, our Lord's words were, " He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone. " The Pharisees walked away, none of them being qualified. Christ then addresses the woman: "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you either, go. From now on sin no more." As my dad heard these verses, the Lord began to open his heart to receive His Word, right there in the middle of a drug deal. He came face to face with the fact that he was a sinner, yet that God is merciful and could grant him pardon in spite of his own undeservedness. He went home that night weeping, humbled, and repenting of his sins. He placed his faith in Christ and gained eternal life.
Holiness is, indeed, traumatic. Scripture tells us plainly that Jesus is the Light, but that darkness does not know the Light and tries to hide from it. This is why the Word also tells believers to expect trials and persecutions, because we live in a dark world that disdains and cringes at the Light they've been given (just as every believer, him/herself once did before being saved). The good news is that God does offer mercy, even though the smallest seeming sin against Holy God Almighty is enough to merit us an eternal punishment in Hell (God is infinitely holy, therefore even the slightest sin is infinitely sinful against Him and must be responded to with His holy justice). Yet, God has made a way to satisfy the need for His holy justice, through His only Son, Jesus Christ, Who took the wrath of God upon Himself, dying on the cross to pay for the sins of those who will repent and place their trust in Him. Those who do so are saved from God's wrath and given eternal life with Him. They are also adopted, being given the right to be called sons and daughters of the Holy God whom they once despised. "And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you to Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach." (Col. 1:21-22)
I realize I've digressed a bit from the main topic of the chapter, but the gospel was on my heart and at my fingertips tonight. Reader, my fervent prayer for you is that, if you are not yet reconciled to your Creator, that you will become aware of how desperately you need to be. Yes, your life depends upon it. In the deepest love I tell you urgently that you're on a course heading straight to eternal death and punishment, just as I was myself, but for the grace and mercy of God who opened my heart to receive His Light. He has made a way out. He offers you mercy with a great, pardoning love. Confess your need of a Savior, repent of your sins, and run to Him for life full and everlasting. You will not be sorry if you do.
"Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."