image courtesy of michael belk and theundergroundsite.com
This is the third post in a short series from John 1:14 on what Jesus’ incarnation means to our own ministries on earth. Find the first two posts here: the word became flesh and robbing God of his glory.
The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. — John 1:14
Full of grace and truth.
Churches often exist in one extreme or the other, as do Christians. We either preach a lot of grace while downplaying (or ignoring) important truths… or we get so caught up in truth we believe salvation is found in possessing it. We’re a strange lot, humanity, choosing one extreme and claiming Jesus was firmly in that camp. Many of us would give up truth in an effort to “just love on people” while others would use that very truth as an excuse to not love people as we love ourselves.
Yet Jesus existed in both of these extremes; he was full of grace AND truth. In verse 17 we see that Jesus not only possessed them, but came to earth to give them to us. We have received both grace and truth, and we have been called to be grace and truth in the world; and we must be both.
We have been called to be
grace and truth in the world;
and we must be both.
We must, when serving others, share with them the truth behind our graciousness. Loving someone without telling them the wonderful truth about God is not the kind of love to which we’ve been called (nor is it love at all — more on this later). For it is this very truth that will set them free, not my random acts of kindness.
But also I must show love to others if I intend to share with them truth. I don’t like wording it that way; it sounds as if we’re loving people as a cover for sharing the truth — and some churches indeed see it that way. I don’t. Nor did Jesus, it seems to me. We love because love is the currency of the kingdom of God; it should be our default setting. We love because it is the right thing to do. We love because God loves us.
These two ideas — grace and truth — don’t actually stand in opposition to one another. Rather, love necessitates truth. How could we claim to love someone while hiding from them the most important information they could ever know? Churches who offer grace without truth do not in fact love as Jesus loved. And their counterparts — churches who offer truth without love — have not fully grasped the truth which they are attempting to offer. They may know it, but they’re not living it.
Father, make us both grace and truth to a world that knows and understands neither.