What has really been happening these last few weeks? I believe that we have been engaged in an exercise in corporate sanctification. Why corporate? Because most of the New Testament epistles address the body of Christ, the church, as a whole. In fact, the Lord has been addressing corporate sin in the body of Christ that goes deeper and broader than the headline issue on the table.
Through the month of October, our congregation sought to respond to issues raised and addressed by the General Assembly of our national church, the PCA, regarding ethnicity and the gospel. I’m grateful for our Overture 43 committee for their initiative in orchestrating our corporate response to this issue.
We have had the privilege of hearing the Word preached to us by other voices and to hear, by way of public and private conversation, the views of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Everyone has heard something they didn’t like to hear, or something they disagreed with, but we have listened to one another. Even Session has had to wrestle with these matters, and we have been challenged together to pursue deeper relationships among ourselves and within our church family.
I have gotten to know some of you better, I have wept with some of you, and been hugged by more of you this week than in the past seven years! I like it!
What is the take away from the month? Being reformed means always reforming (semper reformanda). That doesn’t mean evolving doctrine, but it does mean always reforming our lives under the Word of God; bringing captive all our thoughts to the obedience of Christ. God has been at work from the Session and all through the life of our church, bringing his Word to bear upon us. Now we have taken a baby step towards learning what it truly means to “bear one another’s burdens,” to “honor each other above ourselves,” “to not bite and devour one another,” “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace,” to “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,” to “not do anything out of selfish ambition or conceit,” and to “put on... compassionate hearts, kindness, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another... forgiving each other...” This is our roadmap forward from this month. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has brought us through this to make our church a humbler, happier, and holier church. I pray for us all that this be true. For, “this is how we know that we have been translated from death to life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14).
When Christ challenged the seven churches of Asia, he addressed them corporately, but always ended by saying to the individual “He who has an ear to hear, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Corporate holiness ultimately comes down to personal holiness. Will I love my brother or sister? Will I do my part to make our church a warmer, friendlier place? Will I listen to my brethren? Will I listen to their stories and will I respond in love to them? We all need to ask these questions. Answering them will be the task of a lifetime.