Grace and Truth

My relationship with Jesus did not really begin to dive deep in a rubber-meets-the-road way until college. I remember late night talks of faith with friends, pondering how one hears from God, how to pray without feeling like you are talking to a wall, feeling overwhelmed by the bible and what to read, wondering how to live life reflective of a relationship with Jesus in a world that is so contrary to what he is about.

I remember one day sitting with a dear man named Craig Parker, at that time the director of the Navigators, a campus ministry at Dartmouth that was formative in my faith journey. I don’t remember the particular context of the conversation, but we were talking about walking the narrow road… not the one paved with rule following and self righteousness that religion often sells {which seems impossible and repulsive at best}, but the narrow road I believe the bible is talking about that follows in the footsteps of Jesus… one that is lined on one side with grace and the other with truth and strikes a perfect balance between the two.

He scrawled a picture on a napkin that looked somewhat like this…

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See, truth, by nature, is divisive, he explained. It is exclusive, hard, condemning and often difficult. Grace, on the other hand, is inviting, inclusive, soft and undeserved. Jesus somehow perfectly exemplified both. He walked a line only possible by the spirit of God, never sacrificing truth, and never abandoning grace. And our goal as Jesus followers is to make every effort to walk the line. We inevitably start woefully to one side {I was the soft and squishy grace girl that just wanted everyone to feel loved and included but didn’t know or adhere to much truth} and we then spend our lives moving toward the middle, most likely missing it to one side or the other depending on the circumstance, but hopefully coming closer and closer to center. Maybe like this…

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The  word picture he scrawled on that napkin in Collis has never left me. I have scrawled it on envelopes and journal pages when friends are in conflict, when there was a need to confront someone with sin, when someone wanted to make a life change as a result of a formative experience with Jesus but was fearful of becoming zealous or self-righteous… and it has never failed to make clear the beautiful tension that is following Christ.

It is a reminder that we can’t err so far on the side grace that we neglect the word of God and turn a blind eye to the fact that there are consequences of sin and thus make the cross unnecessary, but also that we don’t err so far on the side of truth that guilt and punishment are our only recourse for sin and thus make Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice in vain. My most favorite example of this is when Jesus encounters the woman caught in adultery… He first removes all the attention from her so shame does not win and the focus is Him; he then neither betrays the grace of God: “Neither do I condemn you.”, nor denies the gravity of destructive behaviors in our lives: “go and sin no more”.  He is altogether brilliant and truthful and gracious and LOVE. How beautiful is our God!?

On this little napkin is also a roadmap for how we are to live…. recently I had a group of young women over who have experienced life changing experiences with God over the summer. They tasted and saw that the Lord was good, and the community and service and worship they experienced made all their previous “fun” pale in comparison. Their inside-out change is apparent and they deeply desire to live in pursuit of a healthy, more life giving community, abandoning drinking and sarcasm and crude media and unhealthy relationships, but not wanting to abandon all those friends who did not have the same experience and are still engaging in a lifestyle that just months ago was their norm. We talked about how we can make choices to honor the Lord and keep our own consciences clean {truth}, while not turning up our nose at others who have not had the same internal encounter {grace}. We talked about how we can still show up and how inevitably some will feel convicted by the very change in our habits {darkness detests the light!} but how we can still love well and not have an air of self-righteousness about our new course of action that would feel condemning to others. No doubt, this balance is not easy!

I love that Jesus never made behavior modification the goal! A heart change was and is always what he is after… a deep encounter with the living God that moves from inside out and changes our taste buds to desire life and truth and health and freedom.  And how will our friends ever receive the invitation to new life if our very posture seems disapproving of their existence, rather than happier and healthier and merely at peace with our new sense of freedom as we offer an unwavering hand to join us whenever they are ready and willing?

Grace or truth? On which side do you like to sit? How today can you move toward the center, to throw off sin in light of truth, or to throw off self-righteousness in light of grace? To show mercy to a friend, or to gently call another back so they don’t go astray?

I pray today we talk, we look, we stand, we walk, a little more like Jesus. He is the perfect invitation, the wisest counselor, the fairest judge, the sure sacrifice, the merciful father, the best friend and the most glorious savior.  And he is crazy about you.

One thought on “Grace and Truth

  1. Emily dear,
    Your words of what living a faith filled grace filled life ministered to my soul. They cause me to reflect back to my yesterdays. Now with almost over I ask myself, did I live aware that how I embrace my today’s interactions can count heavily in someones life? And, my tomorrow’s……………only God knows. I am assured as I travel this journey that I am so much more aware of His nudges, and more likely to pause and follow.

    Liked by 1 person

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