Because the gospel reminds us of our sin, it helps us act in humility toward others, extending grace to them just as God extended grace to us. For instance, one of the things the staff team at my church repeats all the time is that we insist on giving others the benefit of the doubt. The gospel drives us to assume that others have good intentions and to question our own hearts. In so doing, it cultivates an atmosphere of grace.
What if our associations, our state conventions, and our national convention were characterized by this kind of gracious leadership? Jesus himself led his disciples, profoundly, by picking up a towel and washing their feet. He showed them that love is the most essential element in leadership. How beautiful would it be if that spirit characterized all of the interactions of the SBC?
Antagonism toward Christianity is growing in our society, but this is no time to despair. The early church didn’t grow exponentially because the government was behind them but because they trusted the Spirit and proclaimed the gospel boldly. They took the commission that Jesus had given them—to love their neighbors and take the gospel to them—and they turned the world upside-down.
Our world is sick and in need of the healing balm of the gospel. We must aim for the same paradox Jesus embodied in his ministry, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:17). Truth without grace is fundamentalism. Grace without truth is vapid sentimentality. The Great Commission is that we proclaim the gospel; the second Great Commandment is that we love our neighbors. Both should be evident among Southern Baptists. We must not only speak the truth of Christ; we must do so with the spirit of Christ. As I’ve heard it said, people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.
Southern Baptists have always been a gospel people; God-willing, we always will be. The gospel is, as Paul said, “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). We must avoid the temptation to let smaller doctrinal issues or any personal preferences replace the centrality of the gospel as our unifying standard. The need is too great, the hour is too near, and the beauty of the gospel is too precious for us to define ourselves by anything else.
This article originally appeared here.