As noted yesterday, I’m reading Cornelis Van Dam’s The Elder: Today’s Ministry Rooted in All of Scripture. So far, it’s a good read and I would recommend it — I hope to post my full review of it here in the next few days. A couple of weeks ago, I posted my review of the biography of Calvin by Herman Selderhuis. I was troubled by his characterization of Calvin’s relationship to God.
In The Elder, Van Dam discusses the approach that elders should take to sin in the congregation. He advocates graciousness and patience, especially when sin is committed out of weakness and ignorance. Along the way, he quotes Calvin:
In Calvin’s words, as children of God we offer our best to God without fear of condemnation, “firmly trusting that our services will be approved by our most merciful Father, however small, rude, and imperfect these may be. Thus also he assures us through the prophet: ‘I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him’ (Mal. 3:17).” Calvin goes on to note that the word “spare” is used in the sense of “to be indulgent or compassionately to overlook faults.” (187)
That sounds more like the Calvin that I’ve come to know. We can firmly trust our most merciful Father.