Wednesday, January 20, 2016

learning the lingo: sanctification


"Sanctification" (also "sanctify") is one of those churchy words that you probably will never hear uttered more than 50 feet away from a steeple. It's supposed to be an especially important idea for Methodists, but what does it mean? If you're not fluent in churchese, you might not be clear on this. What's a preacher talking about when she talks about sanctification?

I happened on a nice definition earlier that I wanted to pass along. According to United Methodist bishop Scott Jones, in his book The Evangelistic Love of God and Neighbor, sanctification "is becoming the kind of person who fulfills the Great Commandments." Remember the Great Commandments? Jesus was asked what the single greatest commandment was in all the law, and he said, quoting the Old Testament:

'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)

So sanctification, according to Jones, is becoming the kind of person who fulfills these two commandments, becoming the kind of person who loves God and loves your neighborsand loves yourself, since he says to 'love your neighbor as yourself'. The goal of sanctification, Bishop Jones says, is a life shaped by love: "One loves God, oneself, and others." (I personally believe you have to include the animals under 'others' or 'neighbors' here too.)

There are a lot of other ways you can talk about sanctification - usually people emphasize becoming holy, and "sanctify" does come from santcus, the Latin word for 'holy' - but to me, this is so simple and clear that it's hard to beat. Sanctification means becoming the kind of person who fulfills the Great Commandments, who loves God, himself, and others, whose life is shaped by love.

Now the bigger question, besides 'what does it mean?', is 'am I experiencing sanctification?' Am I growing into that person Jesus called me to be? Am I seeking opportunities to grow and to exercise my love for God, my love for others, and my love for myself?

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