A paradox is an apparent contradiction. Grace and truth aren’t really contradictory. Jesus didn’t switch on truth, then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are permanently switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us… Truth without grace breeds a self-righteousness legalism that poisons the church and pushes the world from Christ. Grace without truth breeds moral indifference and keeps people from seeing their need for Christ. Attempts to “soften” the gospel by minimizing truth keep people from Jesus. Attempts to “toughen” the gospel by minimizing grace keep people from Jesus. It’s not enough for us to offer grace or truth. We must offer both.
When we offend everybody, it’s because we’ve taken on the truth mantle without grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.
Truth without grace breeds a self-righteous legalism.
Grace never lowers the standards of holiness. Jesus didn’t lower the bar, He raised it (Mt. 5:27-28)!
A home full of grace is also full of truth, because grace doesn’t make people less holy – it makes them more holy. Grace doesn’t make people despise or neglect truth – it makes them love and follow truth. Grace isn’t a free pass to sin – it’s a supernatural empowerment not to sin (Titus 3:5). By failing to address sin in each other’s lives we send an unspoken message: I’ll overlook your sin if you overlook mine. Grace raises the bar – but it also enables us to joyfully jump over that bar. Any concept of grace that leaves us – or our children – thinking truth is expendable, is not biblical grace.
The ancient, historical Jesus came full of grace and truth. The modern, mythological Jesus comes full of tolerance and relativism. Even in the church truth is sometimes buried under subjectivism and cowardice, while grace is lost in a sea of permissiveness and indifference. Without truth, we lack courage to speak and convictions to speak about. Without grace, we lack compassion to meet people’s deepest needs. The vast majority of colleges were built with the vision and funding of Christians. Why? To teach truth. Most American hospitals were built with the vision and funding of Christians. Why? To extend grace. We don’t have the luxury of choosing either grace or truth. Yet many believers habitually embrace one instead of the other, according to our temperament, background, church or family. We must learn to say yes to both grace and truth – and say no to whatever keeps us from them.
Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love, not to withhold the truth in love.
Any concept of grace that makes us feel more comfortable about sinning is not biblical grace. God’s grace never encourages us to live in sin; on the contrary, it empowers us to say no to sin and yes to truth.
If we minimize grace the world sees no hope for salvation. If we minimize truth, the world sees no need for salvation. To show the world Jesus, we must offer unabridged grace and truth, emphasizing both, apologizing for neither.
Truth is quick to post warning signs and guardrails at the top of the cliff. Yet it fails to empower people to drive safely – and neglects to help them when they crash. Grace is quick to post ambulances and paramedics at the bottom of the cliff. But without truth, it fails to post warning signs and build guardrails. In so doing, it encourages the very self-destruction it attempts to heal.
Truth without grace crushes people and ceases to be truth. Grace without truth deceives people and ceases to be grace.
Truth without grace degenerates into judgmental legalism. Grace without truth degenerates into deceitful tolerance.
Christ’s heart is equally grieved by grace-suppression and truth-suppression, by grace-twisting and truth-twisting.
God’s commands are given as a means of grace so that we might grow in godliness and show that we love Him.
Like my lamentations about the church at times failing to display grace, the church at times also fails to display truth. Do we dare to be ashamed to speak about Jesus in fear that it might offend someone and defend it in the name of grace? Are we permissive and overly tolerant with our children, avoiding discipline while thinking we are acting in grace? Should we eliminate certain biblical principles like repentance, hell, church discipline, marriage roles, sin, God’s sovereignty and Christ’s lordship because we wish to offer grace? Should we not confront sin and hold each other accountable because we think that is a display of grace?
It’s possible to be so nice in an effort to show grace that we in reality keep people away from receiving grace themselves. The most loving thing we can do is speak truth both to unbelievers and believers. Our primary goal is not to help each other feel good, but help each other be good. Without truth there can be no grace!
You see, it’s not that difficult to demonstrate either grace or truth. What takes the work of God in our lives is to be able to demonstrate both – grace and truth. Not both like a faucet that turns from one temperature to the other, but like Jesus who always demonstrated both in every occasion. In order to be successful, we must live lives that are wise, saturated with the Bible, being fueled by the Holy Spirit, driven by the principles we’ve accepted in the Gospel and seeking to exalt our Savior in all things.