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Do American Christians Need the Message of Grace or a Call to Holiness?
Will Willimon is a retired bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church and professor of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School.
While we always need grace—grace defined by us Methodists as the gratuitous power of God to enable us to live transformed lives for God—Americans today are in desperate need of the disciplines of holiness. As a pastor, I know firsthand the morally chaotic, sadly devastated lives of those who thought it was possible to be good without God. The wreckage and superficiality of undisciplined lives surround us—and I'm not just talking about Donald Trump.
We Wesleyans believe that holiness is evidence of grace working in us. Too often, popular evangelical Christianity has stressed grace as what God in Christ has done for us; holiness churches stress grace as what God is daily doing in us and through us. Holiness is a name for what happens to us when a powerful, life-changing God commandeers our lives.
Grace is more than some benign, sweet syrup poured over us by a God who only says, "I love you just as you are; promise me you won't change a thing." Holiness of heart and life demonstrates to the world that Christ is able to not only love us as we are but also change us into what he would have us be. Holiness is Christ not only forgiving our sin but also redeeming us and utilizing us for his work in the world.
In other words, holiness is God's grace in action, enlisting us to work for God's will in the world.
Holiness gives us the courage to be in but not of the world. Flaccid Christians reduce Christianity to a personal feeling and are thereby left defenseless against the lures of American consumerist, ...1