Grace and Truth Revisited

Grace and Truth Revisited

“You want justice for everyone else and mercy for yourself.”  That is a direct quote from a pastor spoken to a friend of mine that she shared with me this week as she and I were discussing a common tendency to put the cart before the horse with regard to John 1:14, 17.   I was telling her that a thorn in the side in life, and in ministry, is the way in which I often violate the standard established by Christ to be the “fullness of grace and truth, ”  two things that are very close to mercy and justice.  Because of my coming to terms with ways in which I  didn’t always tell the truth in my younger years, when I entered into a covenantal relationship with Christ, that was the thing that became my top priority……truth. 

In attempting to be a truth-teller, I learned to accept personal responsibility, be transparent, eschew secrets of any kind, root out deceptions, discern lies, cast aside masks (my own and others’), and be fearless in conflict when the truth was at stake.  Somehow, I became so convinced of the necessity of truth that I have, at times, trampled on people to whom I felt called to bring the truth. 

Truth, however, unless blended and ameliorated in its strength by the milder diluent of grace that is usually required to be able to hear it, becomes not the strong, cleansing, antiseptic, purifying agent that it can be and instead, can become a caustic, acerbic, biting, acid that burns.  I notice that the Scripture says FULLNESS of grace and truth.  Truth is not to be watered down…but simply blended sufficiently  with the grace that can be offered on my part (which is paltry little at times) while pointing one to the FULLNESS of God’s grace to us all through the gift of salvation in Christ, which is extravagant, abundant, exceeding all that can be seen or imagined.  

It’s a little like sunshine…..a little bit warms, dries, and purifies one’s skin.   Too much, however, and there is the risk of being blistered.  

Is there such a thing as moderation in truth?  Is that the same as compromise?  Or is there simply a time and a place and a willingness to allow God to bring God’s truth when God is ready, even when the truth is very clear in the moment to one called by God to be a bearer of truth in the world?  Although I may see the truth, I may not be the best instrument for dispensing the truth, the voice that God desires to use in the particular situation.  So I need to practice not rushing in with it when God may have a better, more gracious way to bring it to bear on the circumstances than I do!   I actually do have some experience with this particular aspect of God’s actions in the lives of people.  Some years ago God had called me to intercede on behalf of a particular situation involving two groups of people at odds with one another.  I prayed earnestly for the situation and saw no change.  In fact, it seemed to get worse.  Eventually, however, I felt God reveal to me that He was, in fact, at work in ways that I could not yet see and that, when the time comes He will remedy the situation in a way that no one has to be seen as “winning” or “losing”, as the issue goes to the heart of personhood of the individuals and the stakes are quite high with regard to the opposing forces. But He strongly gave me the sense that the resolution would come in a way, and over a time, so that the people involved would receive the truth willingly and not suffer humiliation, shame, or feeling punished by God.  Gentleness, patience, lovingkindness, not showing favor….my, oh my, God is so much more godly than I can or would be in such situations!  It makes me realize that I need to tread lightly as a voice of truth…..and restrain myself unless and until God explicitly instructs me to be the instrument He desires to use!

Does truth have so many facets that it can be interpreted any way one desires simply by coming at it from the direction one wishes?  Not usually….I think.   Truth can not be everything that anyone would wish it to be. 

In thinking about the sufficiency of grace as a counterbalance to truth, it seems to me that any measure of grace that one is capable of bringing to bear on a situation can, under God’s wonderful multiplying power, be sufficient for the need whenever truth is required.   

One other thought occurs to me….if God has chosen me to speak truth into a situation, specifically, and the truth is hard and I can’t bring sufficient grace to avoid someone being offended by it…..then I have to be strong and prepared to let the truth’s work fall as it will…..offense or not.  I cannot be so people-pleasing that I am inclined to avoid the truth when it is required.  Sometimes the greatest grace I can bring to bear on the situation is to myself,  to accept that not everyone is going to like hearing the truth and if they take it out on me and reject me as a result….I can be okay with that.  God will still have used me to do what He desired and, in my faithfulness to Him, I have been obedient and trusted Him with the outcome.