Thirty years ago in an article called 'The Nerve of Failure', published in Theology Today, Leonard Sweet anticipated some of the themes that have captivated his readers in a stream of his recent bestsellers. My favourite quote is the one at the start:
"The quality that should mark the Christian church is not goodness, but grace, not merit, but mercy, not moralism, but forgiveness, not the enshrinement of success, but the acceptance of failure . . . Lacking the nerve of failure, we have suffered a failure of nerve-to dare to dream dreams, venture visions, and risk getting splinters that come from cutting against the grain."
And then there's the wise reminder from John Oman, an unjustly forgotten theologian, "NO is a Christian word". By which Oman meant, not 'NO' as negativity and withdrawal, but 'NO' as positive engagement against whatever diminishes, demeans or dismisses our humanity - NO as cutting against the cultural grain....and to hang with the splinters. The book from which it comes is called Grace and Personality - now there's two interesting criteria for a church - a place demonstrating, embodying, performing, the grace and personality of Jesus.