Some churches today embrace truth, but need a heavy dose of grace.
Other churches talk about grace, but cry out for a heavy dose of truth.
I invited an outspoken lesbian activist, who was also a prominent abortion activist, to lunch. For the first hour, she hammered me, telling of all the Christians who’d mistreated her. She seemed hard as nails. I listened, trying to show her God’s grace, praying she’d see the Jesus she desperately needed. She raised her voice and cursed freely. People stared. But that was OK. Jesus went to the cross for her—the least I could do was listen.
Suddenly she was crying, sobbing, broken. I reached across the table and took her hand. For the next two hours I heard her story, her heartsickness, her doubts about the causes she championed. I told her about Christ’s grace.
After four hours we walked out of that restaurant, side by side. We hugged.
In our conversation, truth wasn’t shared at the expense of grace, or grace at the expense of truth.
Birds need two wings to fly. With only one wing, they’re grounded. The gospel flies with the wings of grace and truth. Not one, but both.
The apparent conflict between grace and truth isn’t because they’re incompatible, but because we lack perspective to resolve their paradox. The two are interdependent. We should never approach truth except in a spirit of grace, or grace except in a spirit of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50% grace, 50% truth, but 100% grace, 100% truth.
Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.
Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect biblical study and see moral standards as “legalism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.
Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other.
(Excerpt from The Grace & Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn)
Postscript on the lesbian activist: This woman was one of the most outspoken abortion and homosexual activists in our area. By God’s grace, she came to faith in Christ. She now fellowships with the same Christians she used to despise. Her life has not been easy, but when I see her—the last time was when I did a book signing at Costco, to which she brought several family members—she hugs me and we talk about our Jesus. She is precious. I look forward to walking with her on God’s New Earth. And I know there are countless others, as deserving as Hell and undeserving of grace as I, who will join us there.
We can love people without denying their sin. If we truly love them we will NOT deny their sin but help them find the remedy to their sin. We will stand next to them as fellow-sinners, and tell them Jesus died for us all. It’s the old description of true evangelism: one beggar telling another beggar where to find food. They may or may not respond to Jesus. That’s not up to us, and it’s not a condition for whether we love them. But we can love them nonetheless and tell them what Jesus did for us, and help them however we can, and pray that one day they will embrace the One they long for, who Augustine called “the End of all our desires.”
This article is an excerpt from Randy Alcorn’s book, The Grace and Truth Paradox.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.