Grace and Truth.
I don’t know of any Christians who don’t think these are essential values of the Christian faith. It is never a question of grace or truth. It is always grace and truth. We know both are necessary and we know that without either one, we would all be toast.
Truth – right knowledge of God, God’s will, God’s word, who we are as sinners in need of a Savior, etc. are absolutely essential to our faith. There are some truths – that Jesus is the only way to salvation, that the Bible is the only authority, that Jesus is the Son of God, etc – that are non-negotiable, for should any of these truths change or be compromised, we cease to be Christian.
Grace – that it’s all God’s grace, all of it – salvation, eternal life, kingdom living, purpose, meaning, joy – it’s all God. It’s all God’s gift. We are completely and absolutely undeserving of any of it. God’s love and plan for salvation for us purely God’s idea, God’s doing, and sustained by God. It’s all grace. No one is deserving. Not one.
This is not up for debate.
The question that is up for debate is in which order should these be applied to people and in relationship with others, particularly those who are not a follower of Jesus Christ.
The right ordering of grace and truth or truth and grace make a huge difference in how Christianity feels to those who are not Christians.
When truth, and people’s acceptance of God’s truth (or our interpretation of God’s truth), is demanded before relationship, that truth is often experienced as offensive, repulsive, and not good news – did you get that? it’s not gospel!
It is still truth, but instead of it giving life and being generous, such truth kills and destroys the possibility for relationship, conversations, and the possibility for someone seeking the Jesus of truth.
Truth is absolutely necessary. But it must not be first. Grace must come first.
Grace says, it’s not just you and others who need Jesus…I need Jesus! Anyone who is in need of Jesus is welcome, loved, and made to feel like they are someone whom Jesus would willingly sacrifice himself on the cross because Jesus could not imagine spending an eternity without you! That’s grace. That’s good news. That’s the gospel!
When such grace is offered and experienced, people are open to conversations, relationships, and opportunities to deal with truth – that we are all sinners in need of a savior.
Jesus doesn’t begin his conversations with people with “Sin, no more.”
That’s how he ends his conversations with people he has conversed with, healed, eaten with, hung out with, and eventually people he’s forgiven, and then he challenges them to “Sin no more” since God has forgiven and changed them.
Truth and grace are both present but grace is offered first.
That’s my aspiration. That’s my hope. That I can offer the grace of Jesus to all people, all sinners in need of a Savior – gay, straight, bi, trans, white, gray, yellow, red, black, young, old – all people, all sinners in need of a Savior – so they can experience the transforming truth of God through grace.