This past May, at the Basics Conference at Parkside Church, I picked up a copy of a new book from Reformation Heritage Books. The book’s simple, one-word title caught my eye. Nothing in my memory indicated that I’d ever seen a book on this topic: Graciousness.
So, I thought, “Why have I never seen a book on this topic until now?” Not that there never has been one, but if there was then I’d never seen it. So, I grabbed a copy. A few months later, I was looking for a small book to read on a short teaching trip, and threw it into my backpack at the last minute. I was so glad I did! On the flights there and back I devoured it. Now, I’m reading it a second time…but not alone. Our church staff is reading it together, discussing one chapter at a time in our weekly meeting on Wednesday morning.
Written by seasoned pastor and counselor, John Crotts, who serves Faith Bible Church in suburban Atlanta, Graciousness challenges and edifies us all. Chapter 2 is entitled “The Graciousness that You Need.” In this chapter, the author surveys four key passages in the New Testament that help “strengthen our grasp of the breadth and significance of biblical graciousness.” These passages reveal four virtues of biblical graciousness.
- Graciousness humbly seeks to strengthen others. When the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians there was much arrogance showing up in different ways in the church. Specifically, their pride was connected to their love for knowledge at the expense of love. “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1). Crotts explains, “Instead of letting their theological knowledge flow through their hearts into loving actions, they became filled with pride.” In contrast, “love uses theology to build up other Christians.” Why? “The Bible’s standard for speech is incredibly high. Every word that comes across a Christian’s lips must be infused with grace in order to build up the people who hear. There are no vacations or coffee breaks permitted in order to unleash harsh, critical, unkind, or harmful speech—a believer’s mouth must always be on duty, speaking good words in good ways at the right time.”
- Graciousness accompanies truth in mutual ministry among Christians. Ephesians 4:11-16 describes how God causes genuine church ministry and its corresponding growth. “The major means of ministry given to the church for this equipping and ministering is the Word of God. But a critical component of the comprehensive strategy is that the Word must be communicated to others in a particular manner: ‘But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head….The goal of this truth-and-love ministry is comprehensive growth in Christ.’”
- Graciousness evidences trusting God to change others. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is to even be gracious when correction is necessary (2 Tim. 2:23-26). “A gracious heart exuding kind and gentle manners can accomplish correction.” In contrast, “Pragmatists justify using a harsh, aggressive, firm, and often loud tone of voice when they deal with those who disagree with them. They rationalize that their harshness lets their opponent know how serious they are about their point of view. Such contests can be won because of intimidation and submission rather than because the other person is persuaded of the disputed truth claims.”
- Graciousness creates gospel openings with unbelievers. Colossians 4:5-6 exhorts every believer to season their speech with grace, as they season their food with salt. “As food becomes more appetizing when proper seasonings are applied, so also gracious conversations create positive interest and opportunities for deeper explanations of the gospel sources of the sweetness. The Lord has dealt kindly with His people, and He calls them to emulate His example in their dealings with fellow believers as well as with outsiders.”
Graciousness is a uniquely-helpful book. You should get a copy. Read it. Then form a small reading group with a few other believers for the purpose of discussing it. Sadly, churches committed to sound doctrine, and biblical counseling, are not always known for their graciousness. So, I like to imagine how churches might be more Christlike if we would all prayerfully read and apply the counsel found in this little book.