Grace and truth. These are terms we throw around a lot, but do we really know what they mean to us each day? Do we understand that our lives need to speak of both, not just one? Do we get the concept that God needs to balance the way in which we live out our lives with our desire to share the truth?
Grace is such a dynamic, rich word with a complexity of meaning. It is the means by which we were saved. It is the strength by which God preserves and guides us in this walk with Him. And it’s the way in which our life is lived in the reflection of that highest and most precious saving grace.
I once heard this metaphor from a pastor about this. He said, we are like birds who need two wings to fly. We need grace…and truth…and if one of our wings is weighted down on one side more than the other, it gets really hard to fly.
We know what truth is; it’s in God’s Word. On the grace side, what does it mean to live out grace? Simple definition: your words and actions are kind, motivated by love. People who we say have a lot of grace typically speak less and listen more. But when they do speak, their words are soaked in love and compassion. Grace draws people to you.
Some thoughts on why we need both grace and truth (no, truth by itself is not enough):
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. [Colossians 4:6 NIV]
This world needs the grace and truth that Jesus gave when He was here. Today they look to us, as Christ followers, for that. They don’t get it in many other places. This isn’t a world that is full of grace and truth. How many people really show you grace in this world? Rather it’s a world that sadly lacks it, a mixed up world full of lost, often antagonistic people who need to be right all the time and, ironically, don’t want anyone else telling them what to do.
Grace doesn’t have to have the last word or be right every time. Grace is tactful and remembers that it’s people we’re talking to, with conflict, feelings, different backgrounds, and so on. People are looking for someone whose life reflects a blend of grace and truth. When you draw people with your grace, then they will be more prepared to hear and appreciate truth.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14 NIV]
Jesus was full of grace and truth; it was His nature. And we should seek to be more like Him. When He walked the earth, our Lord performed miracles and good works. That certainly drew people to Him. Besides that, His personality was attractive to people; they liked being around Him. Though He was among sinners, Jesus did not yield His holiness or back away from telling the truth, but He also did not let sin keep Him away from the people who needed Him the most. Did you get that part? Christ didn’t compromise truth to show grace, and He did not let the presence of sin prevent Him from showing grace in order to share that truth.
I definitely used to be heavier on the truth than on the grace, so I asked God for help with that. I had the tendency in much of my walk with God to brick people over the head with the truth. Fortunately, I learned that really doesn’t work most of the time.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a phrase in the Bible that we ought to consider. It’s Ephesians 4:15, where it refers to believers and how we interact with each other:
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. [Ephesians 4:15-16 NIV]
Paul qualifies “speaking the truth” with “in love.” Or you could call it “truthing in love.” That’s really important. It means that we don’t just speak the truth and disregard what anyone else feels about its impact, though I realize the truth will divide. I mean we’re to speak it in such a way that the other person realizes and is aware that we are speaking God’s truth out of the deep motivations of love and compassion for them. Otherwise we might as well be silent. While in context this verse refers to speaking in kindness to other believers, I think it well applies to words that we speak to anyone.
That is a (very small) start on balancing grace and truth.