Liberating acceptance

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I believe we must know
that we are unconditionally
loved and accepted by God
before we can deal with
the issue of our sins.

–James Bryan Smith

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Sanctification

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In “Beauty and the Beast,” it is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful.

In the experience of Saint Paul,
it is only when we discover
that God really loves us
in all our unloveliness
that we ourselves start
to become godlike.

Paul’s word for this gradual transformation of a sow’s ear into a silk purse is sanctification, and he sees it as the second stage in the process of salvation.

Being sanctified is a long and painful stage because with part of themselves sinners prefer their sin, just as with part of himself the Beast prefers his glistening snout and curved tusks. Many drop out with the job hardly more than begun, and among those who stay with it there are few if any who don’t drag their feet most of the way.

But little by little—less by taking pains than by taking it easy— the forgiven person starts to become a forgiving person, the healed person to become a healing person, the loved person to become a loving person. God does most of it. The end of the process, Paul says, is eternal life.

  –Frederick Buechner
Beyond Words

Artwork: Scott Gustafson

The power of forgiving love

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Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favour can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.

–Horatius Bonar
God’s Way of Holiness

Negation or celebration?

In a break with the mystical heritage of the church, [Dietrich] Bonhoeffer maintained that Christianity involves not the negation of earthly desires but their celebration and sanctification.

Sin is not the natural but the unnatural, not
the human but the inhuman.

Whereas in his earlier writings he portrayed the things on earth as temptations and snares leading us to forgetfulness of God, he now regarded them as welcome gifts from God, since they serve human preservation and happiness. He even claimed that God can be found in earthly bliss as well as in the church…

Sin is not only an affront to God
but a putting down of humanity.

Sin is, in the last analysis, inhumanity, and salvation is the realization of true humanity…

–Donald G. Bloesch

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