“Give them a little grace, then make sure to give them some truth.” “Make sure you balance that truth out with some grace.” “Don’t show too much grace.” “There’s the truth, and the other side of the coin, grace.”
I understand the sentiment — we want to make sure our speech is seasoned with the salt of grace (Colossians 4:6), and we want to be sure we are balanced in what we communicate. It seems, however, that Jesus wasn’t focused on doling out equal supplies of grace and truth, like some kind of divine balancing act, but dispensing the weightiest supply of both at the same time. The word John uses is simple: fullness (John 1:16). Jesus brought the ultimate fullness of both grace and truth.
The strongest grace imaginable? Jesus Christ. The strongest truth imaginable? Jesus Christ. He isn’t managing two trickling streams, but is Himself a mighty rushing river pounding forth the strongest currents of grace and truth. Moses, after all, delivered truth in his contributions to scripture and grace in his leadership out of Egypt, but that truth and that grace pale in comparison to the fullness that is found in Christ. Moses brought a form of God’s grace and God’s truth when he brought the law, but the law only condemned us by revealing and awakening our sin. Jesus, however, fulfilled the law and gave us life giving grace and truth.
And this is still the need of human beings throughout our world. Generations of souls are thirsting for God’s grace and truth but are continually drinking in the all condemning law. It is with this in mind that the church is able to loudly proclaim the healing balm of the grace and truth found in Jesus Christ.
This world desperately needs justification; we must not deliver condemnation. This world needs the New Covenant; we must not simply preach the Old. This world is in need of healing; we must not stop at guilt. This world needs unbending truth mixed with outrageous love; we must not operate in paranoid fear. This world needs radical transformation; we must not offer surface behavioral modification. We have the answer in Jesus Christ! He can get down to the root issues, unentangle all the bindings and deliver people by His grace and with His truth.
So, how can we be instruments of Jesus’ grace and truth in our modern world? Here are four considerations and statements, along with follow-up questions:
1. Consider the flow and design of the local church.
People who are new to the body of Christ need help navigating the local church. Do we need to offer them a way to shift from the large group into smaller groups? Do we need to offer ways for them to learn the basics of their faith? Do we need to declutter the church calendar so that a clear path for learning, community and serving becomes apparent? Do we need to change our vocabulary or define the words we use in communicating to them (e.g.stop saying how much you love koinonia)?
2. Prepare special emphases within the local church.
People who have come out of the world and into the body of Christ bring their history with them. Do we need to offer a special teaching on recovering from sexual assault? Do we need to offer groups for those battling drug or alcohol abuse? Do we need to offer classes that take the time to deliver robust truth regarding contemporary “hot topic” issues? Do we need to compile helpful book lists and online resources to help guide younger believers into the truth?
3. Embrace a parental focus within the local church.
People who have been parented by the culture are in need of a patient and parental tone from mature believers. Do we need to offer mentoring of any kind? Do younger believers have a way to interact with grace-filled and truth-saturated believers? Do I need to give more practical applications in my teachings in order to lovingly help a younger generation of new believers along in their walks with Christ? Do we need to offer practical training in stewardship areas like finances, personal organization or work ethic? How ought we demonstrate and teach spiritual disciplines to novices within the church?
4. Offer explanatory teaching in the local church.
People who are new to the Bible are hungry for explanations of how all this works. Cliches don’t work for them. Do we need to dig deeper in understanding the objections they used to cling to? Do we need to work harder at the task of interpretation so as to tie our applications more firmly to the thrust of the text? Do we need to explain various practices in our local church, perhaps even ditching traditions or common exhortations we cannot find scriptural justification for? Do we need to take more time to discuss the “why” with them?
We know the harvest is ripe. We know the laborers are few. We know this will be some tough rowing. But we also know that Jesus is the answer. His grace and truth impacted us, continues to impact us and becomes more real to us as the years tick by. Let’s boldly continue in the work of delivering His grace and truth to a lost and dying world.