Friday, October 29, 2010

Rethinking Grace and Truth

While hanging out with the YMCP cohort, Marko made a passing comment last night in response to a dichotomy I had made between grace and truth:

"Grace isn't the opposite of truth. Grace and truth go hand in hand. Maybe permissiveness could be the opposite of truth, but permissiveness isn't grace."

I think I'd heard the question, "are you a 'grace' person or a 'truth' person?" enough in my context that this false dichotomy had sunk itself into my thinking. What people were really asking with this question was, "are you a nice person who passively allows people to sin, or are you a mean person who calls people out on their crap and makes them feel bad?" I never knew how to answer the question. I didn't want either to be me, and I don't see Jesus doing either in Scripture. I want to say that I'm in the process of seeing and embracing both grace and truth.

Grace is so much more than being permissive about sin. It's the gift of life, the very breath I am breathing in this moment, the joy of having a family and a home and friends and a good cup of coffee and nearly everything in between. Yes, grace involves God's forgiveness of sin. But reducing it to this may cause us to miss out on the full richness of God's grace.

Truth, also, is so much more than just pointing out sin. It's the reality of the kingdom of God in our midst, the anchor we cling to when life seems to be falling apart, everything spoken and revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Yes, truth may include pointing out the dark reality of sin in people's lives. But truth is grace itself; it the revelation of God to you and me.

My paradigm has shifted. The false dichotomy has been deconstructed. And even as I type this, I realize that this is both grace and truth--the realization of reality, the awareness of the deep grace-and-truth-filled love of Jesus permeating the present.


  1. This reminds me of the struggles of the Churches in Revelation. Are we like Ephesus, that is so concerned about the truth that it has forgotten it's first love. Or are we like Thyatira that has many good works, love, faith, service and patient endurance, but we are tolerating immoral behavior. Definitely a struggle to be a person of both truth and grace. If you are a person of truth you are accused of being judgmental. If you tolerate sin, then, well, much too much to say on that in this already too long of a comment. Anyone that finds this balance is like the Church of Philadelphia, and I sure would like to know how they accomplished it in real life practice.

  2. Jeanne, great thoughts, but I wonder if you're still seeing grace and truth as opposites, like two sides of the pendulum. It's less like a balancing act on a teeter-totter and more like fully embracing both with a big hug, each arm wrapped around them.

  3. Maybe I don't understand, yet. I'll keep working on it. Maybe one day I can share a scenario that prompted my first comment and you can help me see it in a different light.

  4. Great point. The tag line of a ministry in Denver for people who struggle with sexual sin is, "100% grace, 100% truth." They do go hand in hand, and when we lesson one, the other is weakened as well. No truth? No need for grace. No grace? Truth then creates burdens we are not intended to bear.