You’d expect that staunchly Reformed folks would be some of the most gracious and relaxed people around. After all, we believe that without the active prompting and work of the Spirit, there is nothing we or anyone else can do to build Christ’s church—or destroy it. God works through us, but it is God who is doing the work (1 Cor. 3:7).
We all have a responsibility in sanctification: we surrender ourselves to the Spirit and help one another to live lives that give evidence to the holy work God is doing in them. We expect church leaders to be responsible for supporting communities that are shaped by the ongoing dying of the old self and rising of the new that characterizes this growth.
This is one of the most important tasks before us at this moment as a denomination. How do we help our communities be shaped by holiness while also expecting them to be places where holiness is not yet achieved? What room do we give to one another for the space needed to wade through the nuances of specific situations? What room do we give to others for speaking words of challenge into our own lives, leadership, and communities? How do we show our capacity to both speak well and listen well to one another?
And how do we do all this as a community shaped by the deep inner peace and freedom that comes from knowing that God alone is the author and perfecter of faith (Heb. 12:2)? Our confessions remind us that even when our communities are not giving the full evidence of God’s holy work in us, salvation continues to be anchored fully and completely in God’s hands rather than any of ours.
We have not been sounding like a community shaped by this peace. To grow in this way, we need the capacity to be patient and the willingness to submit to one another—two things that seem to have declined significantly in our community recently. Instead, many have talked as though the church’s very existence is at stake because of recent challenges and disagreements.
God is calling all of us together to do better. As a community whose theology embraces God’s sovereignty so deeply, we can be a community known for being incredibly gracious, understanding, patient, humble, and peaceful.
We will make mistakes, but nobody will lose their salvation over it. We will at times succeed, but no one will gain their salvation from it. It’s an incredibly important responsibility we carry, so we do the best we can. And we do so recognizing that it is all ultimately in God’s firm and trustworthy hands.