ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Methodist

3 Shades of Grace: Sanctifying Grace

3 Shades of GraceYou can read the Introduction here,

or read about Prevenient Grace here,

or read about Justifying Grace here.

“New birth is the beginning of the new life in Christ, a life of growth in holiness. The term Methodists have historically favored to describe growth in holiness is sanctification.” (Ted Campbell, Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials)

The third shade, or movement, of grace according to our United Methodist tradition is sanctifying grace. Sanctification as a word comes the Latin “sanctus,” which means “holy” or “saint.” As such, sanctification can be understood as the process of growth in holiness, as the quote from Ted Campbell above implies.  The United Methodist Book of Discipline puts it this way:

We believe sanctification is the work of God’s grace through the Word and by the Spirit, by which those who have been born again are cleansed from sin in their thoughts, words and acts, and are enabled to live in accordance with God’s will, and to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

To reach entire sanctification is to reach entire perfection in love. As John Wesley would say so often, we are all striving towards perfection. The misunderstanding that sometime occurs is that when we have been born again, life will be a bowl full of joy at all times as we pursue good works of compassion and justice. But, that simply is not the case.

We cannot forget that sanctification is a process in which the born again Christian is cleansed and grows in faith. Growth is an important aspect to sanctification. The Christian we are when we are justified, is not the Christian we will always be. God is at work in our lives constantly. All the time. God’s not done with us yet.

In 1939, when the Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South, and other Methodist Protestant churches united as The Methodist Church, this now historic statement:

Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost, received through faith in Jesus Christ, whose blood of atonement cleanest from all sin; whereby we are not only delivered from the guilt of sin, but are washed from its pollution, saved from its power, and are enabled, through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless.

Just as we are justified by grace through faith alone, we are sanctified by grace through faith. But Wesley was quick to point out that while grace is a gift, we respond to the gift. It is an action followed by a reaction. God acts; humanity responds. “God’s breathing into the soul, and the soul’s breathing back what it first receives from God,” John Wesley wrote in a sermon, “a continual action of God upon the soul, and re-action of the soul upon God.”

This re-action, or response, to God’s gift of grace is when and how growth is possible. And so, we engage in works of piety and works of mercy as we strive towards perfection. Works of piety include Bible study, small groups, prayer, devotional time, worship, and participation in the sacraments. Works of mercy, on the other hand, include feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, giving voice to the voiceless, as well as other acts of compassion and justice.

And because it will not be easy; because it will get messy; because we will still experience pain and suffering, there is grace for this journey. Sanctifying grace is the divine grace by which the process of sanctification takes place within us – making us holy.

A couple of months, our youth group made this short video to communicate the process of sanctification.

Guest Post: Mandela’s Legacy of Reconciliation

Neill Caldwell is editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate magazine.



In August, 1989, I was visiting London and discovered that my hotel was around the corner from the South African embassy. One day I saw a large group of people protesting outside the gates of the embassy against the South African government’s racist system of apartheid. I joined the rear fringe of the demonstration, mainly for the novelty of it, and among the things we chanted that day was “Free Mandela!” Although I’d heard of Nelson Mandela the year before when a huge tribute concert was organized in honor of his 70th birthday, I can’t honestly say I really knew who he was.

I had only met one person from South Africa, a student journalist who interned at the North Carolina newspaper where I was working. She was white, but was in favor of lifting the harsh laws against people of color in her homeland; laws that made our “Jim Crow” laws in the South seem tame. I only had a couple of conversations with her about apartheid, but considered her viewpoint – a white person willing to give away absolute political control to the black majority population – to be very enlightened.

Six months after my 15-minute protest in London, Mandela was in the news as it became apparent that the government was about to free him from prison. I remember artists making sketches of what Mandela might look like, as there had been no photos of him published in the 27 years he had languished in prison. That was pretty remarkable. Who was this man so many people were interested in seeing?

I remember his release, walking toward the media’s cameras and into freedom and with a huge crowd behind him. What a moment that was.

His election as the first black president of South Africa was even more amazing. That the election process, with more than two dozen presidential candidates, came off without violence was notable enough. But that a former inmate, who had been labeled a “terrorist” by his own government, the U.S. and Britain, was now in charge of the government that he had long worked to overthrow? If it was a Hollywood script it would have been rejected as too unbelievable.

Mandela was a complex man, a militant who enjoyed gardening and ballroom dancing. He said he was blessed with his father’s “stubborn sense of fairness.” After his schooling, including being the only native African in his law school class, Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC), forming the political organization’s youth branch with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. Mandela proposed a change in tactics in the anti-apartheid movement. Previously the ANC had sought to further its cause by petitions and protests; Mandela felt these actions were insufficient, and proposed more proactive tactics such as boycotts, acts of civil disobedience and strikes.

After police fired on an ANC protest in 1960, killing 69 in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre, Mandela went underground, obtaining the nickname “Black Pimpernel” in the press for being able to travel the nation while in disguise to organize actions again the government. Frustrated by the lack of progress, Mandela formed an even more radicalized group to perform acts of sabotage against military bases, power plants and transportation links. He was arrested in 1962, convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1964.

It is Mandela’s prison years that make him remarkable. Sent to Robben Island, prisoners worked at hard labor during the day, breaking rocks into gravel or quarrying lime. He slept on a straw mat in a 7 by 8-foot cell; allowed one visit and one letter every six months, and no newspapers. But despite this, “Mandiba” thrived. He learned the Africaans language to better communicate with his jailers. He studied Islam, and organized “the University of Robben Island” where prisoners taught their areas of special expertise to other inmates (the original “Ted Talks?”).



He was eventually released in 1990, declaring his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the white minority government. After his election as president, he saw reconciliation as his primary agenda. His idea of “the Rainbow Nation” meant that everyone was to be included as part of the new system. President Mandela met with senior figures of the apartheid regime, sometimes over tea, saying that “courageous people do not fear forgiving.” He created the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid by both the government and people of color, appointing Archbishop Desmond Tutu as its chairperson. When his presidential term ended, he voiced his support for candidate Jacob Zuma, of the rival Zulu tribe, who was elected in a land side.

Finally, ten years ago at age 85 Mandela famously “retired from retirement” citing health reasons, telling the world “don’t call me; I will call you.”

There are qualities of his life that you could call downright … biblical. Certainly his “love your enemies” message resounds with Christians. Biographer Martin Meredith says he was always polite and courteous to everyone, irrespective of age or status, and often sought out the company of children or servants. Even while president, he insisted on making his own bed. He also liked to secretly drive a car with darkly tinted windows just to enjoy the pleasure of driving.

Mandela was far from perfect. He was a Marxist who learn much from the Communist activists he worked alongside, but did not become Communist himself because their atheism conflicted with his Methodist faith. Never a great public speaker, the content of his speeches, and his writing, are some of the most profound words of my lifetime. “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances,” he said.

The thing to take away from the life of Nelson Mandela is his attitude toward those who sought to oppress him, marginalize him and strip away his basic human rights. He forgave them.

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