Sanctuary is a diverse group of people from different neighborhoods and backgrounds who all share the belief that the beauty of grace is more transformative than any ethical program, ideology, or philosophy. Though many of us feel cynical of religion, we are a community that is holding out for grace, confident that God is already working to bring about systemic justice, reconciliation, and wholeness.
Religious devotion, high ethical moral standards, good intentions, profound intellectual insights, and unleashed creativity are not enough to heal our world. We need to be rescued.
God did so by substituting humanity with Himself in the person of Jesus, thereby restoring the cosmic relationship between Creation and its Creator on the basis of His work and record – not ours. This classic Christian message called “the Gospel,” is what Sanctuary attempts to spread – first through ourselves, and then through the city – in word, deed, and community. When we trust it – it begins to transform us and our world from the inside-out - rather than trying to change you from the outside-in by sheer will power. The importance of this truth cannot be overstated, and it is a truth that we as a community have been spreading from one relationship to another.
Richard Lovelace does a great job of explaining the difference between a “gospel transformation” and a “moral reformation” by using the example of bent iron. He says that there are two ways to straighten a bent rod of iron. One way, through purely external power and force, is to bend the iron rod until it’s straight again. But the truth of iron is that if you succeed in bending the iron back, instead of being as strong or stronger, it is actually weaker where you bent it. Even if it looks visually straight, it will be prone to break if it is bent again in the same area. The fibers of the iron are broken inside and by this physical exertion it is now unstable and susceptible to snapping in two. But if you put this iron in fire until it glows from the inside, in that fire as the fibers are transformed from the inside, you can shape and transform the iron and make it straighter than ever and stronger than ever. It becomes tempered because of the fire and is able to withstand even the physical forces that attempt to bend it and make it crooked.
This is the difference between Gospel transformation and moral reformation. It is true that through sheer will power and moral exertion you can change yourself. If someone has bent you (through abuse, trauma, etc.), you can will yourself to bend back so that you appear to be straight and strong. Spiritual disciplines, behavior modification, accountability groups and other ways of changing help bend you back by influence and outside force.
Or, through the Gospel, you can see your heart plunged into the fire of the One who made you and calls you to Himself. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of the One who made you and is infinitely more powerful than you are. Moreover, this same God procured FOR you cosmic favor, total acceptance, beauty and loveliness. Because it was procured through merits of his own Son, and not ours, we call it GRACE.