We Aspire to be Shaped by the Gospel
Yanadi reflects on the second of eight aspirations for GBC that the elders have shared, and how it is lived out together as a church.
Recently, the pastors and elders shared some aspirations for the church at our Watchnight Service and QCM. As Pastor Oliver wrote, in drafting the eight aspirations, the leadership allowed Scripture to inform their considerations as they sought to answer questions like “What does God want us as a church to aspire towards? What do we value as a church?”
Over these few weeks, we focus on each aspiration in our articles. The second aspiration is still a gospel-centred one, and focuses on Gospel-Shaped: We “aspire to be increasingly shaped by the gospel as a church, so that our relationships are marked by growing humility, love, transparency, compassion, and grace.”
A common complaint I hear from GBC about GBC is that we know the Word a lot but we are not doers of the Word. But being in seminary, I can say that such feeling is not uncommon. Fellow gospel-workers from other churches share a similar complaint pretty constantly. Having said that, I tend to see GBC a little differently, in that GBC is generally a nice, kind and friendly church. Not perfect, but pretty good I think, by God's grace that is working in and through us. But regardless whether we think GBC is not a doer of the Word enough or GBC is pretty friendly, it is always good to not be complacent but introspective with the aim of sanctification. Moreover, GBC is not an institution; we are GBC.
The Sorry State of Not Being Doers of the Word
Recently I was grieved by a loved one. This person is a professed Christian. The conversation started with an innocent sharing of this person's relationship struggle with a family member. As the conversation progressed, it quickly escalated into a series of cussing of that family member. Being concerned about how this person responded to the situation, I stopped and challenged the person, "How can you respond to this undoubtedly unfair situation as a recipient of the gospel yourself?" This person was then visibly irritated and upset by my question, and responded, "Believing in the gospel is one thing, but surviving in this harsh world is another."
I am sure dealing with Christians who do not see their lives as the outflow of their faith is a common struggle for many of us. I do not share that story as the hero of the story. More often than not, I am that professed Christian who prefers to do things my way than the gospel way. And the great danger is that it more often manifests in subtle manners like prayerlessness. But indeed, it can be discouraging when dealing with professed Christians who live their lives apart from the gospel that they profess to have received and believed.
What a great loss for us to not fully grasp how much the gospel we claim to believe is sufficient for our living, not only in the beginning, but through and through!
The Sorry State of Being Merely Friendly
One of the reasons for our recent quantitative growth, many newcomers have said, is that we have been friendly and welcoming. We should not discount the good work that God is working among us for it is God's gift for us. However, while we are developing this good culture in our community, the risk is for us to be friendly and welcoming for reasons other than the gospel. It may be because of what everyone is doing. It may be to get other people's approval. Or myriad of other reasons that are not gospel related.
This is made even more pressing when we recognise that niceness, kindness, friendliness, warmth and being welcoming are not characteristics that we, Christians, can claim monopoly on. While there are exceptions, I guess we would be hardpressed to list down unkind non-Christian friends whom we have. Besides, they won't be our friends in the first place if they are unkind, will they? On the other hand, sadly, being in a Christian community, it may be easier for us to identify our Christian friends who have been unkind to us, making it more urgent to appreciate our kind non-Christian friends. We can claim the distinction between outwardly kind and inwardly kind and that non-Christians stop short at being outwardly kind for some ulterior motives. We may be right in our claims. But people are by and large experiential when it comes to feeling welcomed. Moreover, outward kindness can usually be imitated, and who can see someone's heart?
The Gospel's Answer to the Sorry States
In this fallen world, we tend to act like a pendulum when we desire to correct something. When we feel that we know a lot but not do enough, we tend to stop the knowing and just focus on the doing, even when it means more people start doing without knowing why they are doing it. And the opposite is also true. When we feel that we do not know enough but do a lot, we tend to push the knowing at the cost of doing. The gospel's answer to our fallenness is thankfully one that is holistic.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 4:32-5:2)
Christians have been given a new life by God. How this new life should look like is what is being explained in the passage:
- We are to be kind to one another.
- We are to be tenderhearted.
- We are to forgive and be forgiven by one another.
Have we forgiven others recently?
Have we sought to be forgiven by others recently?
And it is amazing that "one another" appears twice in the same verse showing us how much we are indeed living in and as a community who has covenanted to live with and for one another. In order to do this well, we need to grow in our humility, love, transparency, compassion, and grace.
- We are to imitate God Himself.
- We are to walk in love.
However, the passage does not just talk about how this new life should look like (the doing) but also the reason (the knowing):
- Because God in Christ forgave us.
- Because we are God's beloved children.
- Because Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
So it is always important to know the gospel and to do the gospel. Never one at the cost of the other.
Remember: this second aspiration consists of two words: "Gospel" and "shaped". The former is the reason for the latter, while the latter is the consequence of the former being genuinely effective.
How to live this out?
A close friend in GBC likes to give me a friendly reminder how to make sure that EQUIP series do not just stop at making people know, but that it progresses into genuine relationships and reproduction of disciplers. From this year, we try to be intentional about having participants to commit to follow-up activities. We can make use of classes like EQUIP as a springboard to develop gospel-shaped relationships with one another. But it has to start with ourselves. Are you willing to start?
My prayer is from such platforms, we will grow in our humility, love, transparency, compassion and grace. That the new life given by God to us may not only manifest in our individual life, but also in our corporate life as a local church.