Monday, December 22, 2008

Truth + Grace = The Right Way

I attend a men's community Bible study on Thursday mornings before work at the Presbyterian church downtown.  This past week, one of the things we discussed was how essential it is to have a good balance of truth and grace.  If there is just truth, then the truth is we are all sinners, we can't save ourselves, and it's enough to crush us.  The grace that God extends to us though takes away the pain of the truth - we're forgiven, we're loved despite being unworthy, and our failures are not final.  On the other hand, grace by itself leads to disillusionment - there's no accountability, it doesn't matter what we do, everything's fine all the time, and there's no reality check, no reason why we should change.  The balance of the two is God's perfect way of letting us know the truth, but not letting us just sit with it and be crushed by it.  Truth comes and at the same moment so does grace.  

As Christians, we need to exercise this balance in our lives as well.  Many Christians want to go one way or the other.  There are those out there who like to point out everyone's faults, rip people up and down for their sins, and as we all know - the truth hurts.  They never mix in any grace - they're legalistic and they wield the truth like a club, hitting anyone in arm's reach.  There's no grace to soften the blow.  Then there are those who are just so full of grace they'd never tell you the truth.  You know, all your best friends who would never confront you about sin.  And the people who won't tell people the hard truth because "we're supposed to be gracious."  And we are, but not solely.  Grace without truth is just soft, warm fuzzy love and no one ever addresses sin, so everyone always feels like they're just fine.  

What we need is a healthy balance, as God has modeled for us in His relationship with us.  We need to confront people with the truth, but with grace.  Paul said to deal with people gently.  No, I'm not saying that even with grace we need to confront everyone we know about their sins - there's no job position in the Bible that calls for a sin accuser.  But at the same time, we are responsible for those around us, and we were told to not just overlook it all the time.  We need to use spiritual wisdom to know when it's for their own good, and then we need to use a mixture of truth and grace.  They're both important, and they should be used in the same amount.

I have seen this work in my church.  There was a difficult situation where I knew feelings would be hurt, but the truth was that it had to happen.  So I tried to just heap on lots of grace (not false grace either - I meant every word that I said, and it was a good way of keeping me focused on being gracious while dealing out truth).  And within a week, the ordeal was over, and everyone agreed that we were moving in the right direction and there was little to no long-term fallout.  The grace came along with the truth and it allowed us to confront a situation (not being so gracious we wouldn't say anything and let it continue), but also once the truth was out to begin healing the hurt that came along with it immediately (not letting the truth just camp out and do long-term damage by itself).  

This was God's design, grace and truth, so it ought to be modeled by us in our lives.  

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