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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Full of Grace and Full of Truth

Many Christians seek a place of peace when confronted with conflict. Following the culture eliminates most conflicts. Thus, they will stand hard on righteousness when they are surrounded by people who are hard on righteousness or they will stand hard on grace if they are surrounded by those who are hard on grace. They do not understand that the true Christian life is always a tension.
It is both full of grace and full of truth. It isn't a compromise but it isn't always peaceful either.

Righteousness and mercy will always be in tension with one another. Trying to stand on one of these without being fully engaged in the other is merely running from the conflict.

The first time I had to fire someone from a job I said this prayer, "Lord, I believe this is something that I must do. I ask you to help me remember the pain it is causing me. I don't ever want to enjoy this. I don't ever want to brag about how I did this. Please let this be as hard for me as it is this time. Amen." I continue to say that prayer when I have to fire someone. I try to take every other step to avoid the firing.  Praise God, it still hurts!

This tension should always be present when we confront sin. We should be full of grace and full of truth. Sometimes this is painful. It should be.

I have had the story of the woman caught in adultery cited several times when I have had to confront sinfulness. Unfortunately, the person I have confronted usually tells only part of the story. They do not tell how I prayed with them or how I  told them of God's love and how I asked if I could help them. They generally tell a story that paints me as a Pharisee (or even Judas). Therefore, the people who confront me about it think they are rectifying a wrong. These confronters have run to the safe place of grace. They consider grace to have more righteousness than truth.

Yet Jesus was full of truth and grace when He dealt with this woman and her accusers. He addresses them in their own tradition. The culture defined adultery as sexual relations between a married woman and someone who was not her husband. Those who knew this was happening and did not warn the person were considered to be as guilty as the one who committed the sin.

So, Jesus said that the one without sin should throw the first stone. He confronted these people who had caught this woman in the "very act" as those who had not warned her. They were guilty of the sin themselves. This wasn't a statement of having no sin at all. If this was the case, we could  never convict anyone of any crime at any time. Jesus was addressing them in their own participation of this sin.

But Jesus did not let the woman go either. He called what she had done sin. He told her not to do it anymore.

What was a woman to do who had been dragged out publically for adultery. Her husband would very likely divorce her immediately. What would be her profession if she was put out on the street? Jesus made that very hard, didn't He? She couldn't sin like this any more.

So, He stood full of truth as He confronted the sins of the accusers and of the woman. And He stood full of grace when He confronted the cold, accusing crowd who saw this woman as nothing more than a means of attacking Him.

We simply cannot hide on one side of the equation. There is always a tension in the Christian life.

John 1:14 (ESV) 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

2 comments: said...

Full of grace and full of truth"? Scripture does contain such apparent self-contradicting sayings; but they are only apparent, not really oxymoron.  

For example, Scripture calls for loving God with all of us - all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and then it also calls us to love our neighbors; leading to some people saying, "how can still love our neighbors when all my love is to be given to God!" The 2nd love commandment is, of course, not competing with God, for love, rather it is we are obeying God to do what He wants, as we obey Him out of our love for Him, God. We are to love God with our all, and when we love God, we obey Him out of love.  What He, God, likes to do is to love men, and so, we do His bidding, to love men; in other words, we love God with our all, and we love one another with His love, channeling out His love.

Using the metaphor of a vessel, is the Lord (likened as a vessel) full of "truth and grace" or is it, both - full of grace and full of truth.  If it is full of grace, where got space for truth, some would say; or if it is full of truth,  can there be space left for grace? Perhaps it is full of "grace and truth".  And so, there is grace and there is truth.  When is it, to come out as grace, and when is it, to come out as truth? Or is it NOT to be viewed that way, it is not either or, but it is that both do get dished out by God.  It is, truth God still affirms it, and grace God still brings to a situation.

Actually, there is no conflict between truth and grace. God is truth, and so, God does not contradict truth. Strictly speaking, we also cannot say God establishes or find out the truth! Since God is truth, and God has no beginning, ultimately, truth is not to be established or found out by God, truth is revealed or affirmed to us by God; truth exists, just as God exists. God just don't contradict a truth.  And so, it is you are either right or wrong. God is the one who knows that, and can undisputedly tell us.  If God says you did wrong, you did wrong. If it is wrong, God can only say it is wrong.

Grace is about deserving or not deserving. When you did wrong, God can only say it is wrong; He cannot say you are not wrong.  It is afterwards, that the question of deserving coming in.  What do you deserve? Suppose you deserve to be kicked in the ass, but God said to let you go with a warning, that is mercy.  One may use the word, grace, for it, if we say mercy is part of grace, although it is not uncommon to define grace and mercy separately, without overlapping or one being the sub-set of the other. Mercy is often defined as not being punished as we deserved, and grace, being getting what we do not deserve.

Cont... said...

Continue from above

For men, we say we need to establish the truth; God, on the other hand, knows the truth, He  reveals it or affirms it to us or even hide it from us (Pro 25:2) Adultery is not right in God's eyes; and that is a truth. When the Lord engineered it that the adulterer not get stoned, it was NOT He was then twisting the truth, and was then saying adultery was not, not right. It was He was being merciful, after discerning the heart-condition of the adulterer, which I believe He was capable of, since He was full of the Spirit.  Jesus could have discerned at least a degree of brokenness and contriteness of heart, on the part of the adulterer on being convicted.

The thing some people still has NOT come to understand, is that God cannot be blind to truth, and so, truth will be looked at by God first, mercy or grace follows. There is no mercy or grace without truth; deserving or undeserving, which mercy and grace are associated with, is referenced to something or some point.  Without truth, we can't talk of deserving or undeserving.  This is the reason we say justice is to be tampered with mercy.  There is first, justice - we need to establish the truth, and then, tamper our punishment with mercy. We should not confuse the two, truth and mercy/grace. We definitely cannot just want grace and not want truth.

The love of God for men is 'ahab love which is love unto righteousness, and so, when we truly love one another with the love of God, we have to be loving one another unto righteousness. Loving another unto righteousness means we cannot turn a blind eye to truths and to what is right and what is wrong. When a person has done wrong or sinned, we cannot say, we will extend grace to the person and so, we will not point out to him the truth.  That is not love, that is misleading the person, confusing him, that is stumbling the person, that is doing harm to the person, and that is spoiling the person like some parents spoiling their children by not confronting them for their wrongdoings, but simply extending grace and mercy to the children, leading them to more spoilt. God's love is not without chastisement. Scripture said, those God loves, He chastises (Heb 12:6)

Anthony Chia, high.expressions