"Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate." - Rick Warren
I think it’s safe to say that many Christians are struggling to manage the tension of being people of both grace and truth. In all fairness, it can be a difficult paradigm to navigate. So what is a biblical response to the issues the church is facing today?
First of all, we must get beyond this idea that we must choose sides. The false understanding that you must either affirm or reject somebody’s lifestyle and beliefs. The lie that we must be people of either grace or truth. In an attempt to justify our already-desgined belief system we will misquote scriptures and make sweeping remarks about the life of Jesus that aren’t representative of the whole - and are just plain unbiblical.
For example, far too many Christians believe that Jesus never identified sin in people’s life or called them out to a higher level of truth. He absolutely did. He also showed them unconditional love. Let’s get one thing clear, identifying sin in society is not “judging" and is not what Jesus is addressing in Matthew 7 (“Do not judge, or you too will be judged”). Too many Christians falsely believe that Matthew 7 is sweeping statement that should keep Christians in a continual mode of acceptance and tolerance.
I also believe that Jesus didn’t go around calling out sin in every person he came in contact with. I tell my church this all the time, “We don’t address sin in someone’s life before we first address the gospel.” Jesus always articulated the gospel message first, which is our source of salvation, before addressing the sin someone was living in. To think that Jesus was simply walking around sharing a message of love void of truth is completely and totally inaccurate.
So, how do we find a gospel-centered understanding of grace and truth?
In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul is trying to lead the church into a place of gospel freedom, a gospel-centered place that doesn’t fall into the ditch of either license or legalism.
License says that because I’m saved by grace, it no longer matters how I live. This is grace with little or no regard for truth. This is where we flippantly make statements like, “Well, it’s all about love anyway.” I would say no, it’s really all about Jesus, which is the embodiment of both truth and love. Paul would argue that people who fly the banner of spiritual license will claim freedom, but they are really living as slaves to sin.
Legalism will generally lead people to confess the gospel but live like their own efforts and performance determine salvation. This is truth with little or no regard for grace. Legalistic Christians fail to understand that they are broken and sinful, and it’s only through the work of Jesus they are made righteous. Legalism leads us to take pride in our own accomplishments, instead of the work of Jesus on the cross.
If you were honest, do you have a tendency to lean towards license or legalism?
Paul is pleading with the church in Galatia to find a place of gospel freedom. An understanding that God’s radical love; his amazing grace at work in our lives leads us to a place of holiness and truth.
LICENSE <——— GOSPEL FREEEDOM ——— > LEGALISM
So, am I walking in grace and truth like Jesus?
We cannot minimize grace, or the world sees no hope for salvation. We cannot minimize truth, or the world sees no need for salvation.
To live like Jesus, we must offer unabridged grace and truth, emphasizing both, apologizing for neither.
The grace question. Why did sinners want to be around Jesus, but not around us? Are you loving people right where they’re at? Are you displaying the same radical grace of God to others that you yourself have received (or are in need of)?
The truth question. Why did they crucify Jesus, but have no problem with us? Do we believe that Jesus is the ultimate source of truth? Are we taking a stand for truth when it’s necessary?
So, how do we manage the tension of living in grace and truth?
We love people without reservation AND we hold onto truth without compromise.
If you want to learn more I encourage you to listen to this message “Grace & Truth” delivered 2.22.15 at City Church.