There’s No Christian Strategy Without Grace and Truth
A couple weeks ago when I wrote on “Godly Strategy in Response to Disney’s ‘Gay Moment’, a self-described Christian, Gary, returned this strong criticism:
Go ahead Gilson. Knock yourself out. Beat your head on that rock. Try persuasion. Try being friends with perverts. In the end, you will find that you have wasted your time. But it’s your life. Waste it if you want to.
His point: Persuasion won’t work. Friendship with “perverts” won’t work.
My question to Gary: It won’t work for what? What are we here for? What are we after? And how could you have missed it so badly?
I wouldn’t pay his answer much attention if I thought no one else was saying the same kind of thing. But Christianity has a reputation for not loving gays and lesbians. Though I’m convinced there’s some intentional distortion going on there, and the reality isn’t nearly as bad as the reputation, the reputation still comes from somewhere. And it includes things like Gary has said.
Grace and Truth
For Christians, this shouldn’t be complicated. Cruelty just isn’t Christlike. Jesus, our great example, came in the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Those two words, grace and truth, tell it all. In the middle of a multi-week series on Christian strategy, then, I want to pause and make sure we’re putting it in context of the right Christian perspective.
Grace without truth isn’t fully grace, for the truth is good for us even if it’s hard. And truth without grace isn’t fully true: it’s ugly and unloving, entirely unlike God Himself.
God is God. He is good, loving, righteous and holy. That’s the one supreme truth.
It’s also true that we humans fall way short of His mark (Romans 3:23). We’re proud, self-oriented, pleasure-seeking rather than God-seeking. There’s a lot of sexual immorality among us, both straight and gay, and it’s wrong.
Everywhere Jesus went He brought grace. He healed the sick. He gave rest to the weary. He brought good news to the oppressed. Through the Cross He purchased us forgiveness from sin.
So when He stopped the stoning of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he told her in no uncertain terms: “Go and sin no more.” That was truth in action. But before he said that, He said: “Neither do I condemn you.” Apparently Jesus knew she had a contrite heart, even though she hadn’t openly confessed her sins.
Fullness, Not “Balance”
Jesus didn’t balance grace and truth. That would have required him to be careful not to have so much grace he went soft on truth, or vice versa. He was full of grace and truth. His truth was truly gracious, and His grace was genuinely filled with truth.
In fact the truths I stated earlier are dangerously incomplete, for,
- Just as it’s true that we’re in real trouble due to sin, it’s equally true that Jesus came to rescue us.
- Just as it’s true that the world will hate Jesus’ followers as they hated Him, it’s equally true that He calls us to love our enemies.
- Just as it’s true we can’t love others that way on our own, it’s equally true that the Holy Spirit will enable us if we trust Him.
- Just as it’s true that some people commit serious wrong in the eyes of God, it’s equally true that “such were some of us” (1 Cor. 6:11). And every sinner including you and me is saved by Christ’s same sacrifice on the Cross, even while we were still His enemies (Rom. 5:8).
No one has a full measure of grace and truth like Jesus did. Some Christians, though, seem to prefer being half-empty.
Some want to be really full of grace. I wrote recently about Pastor Adam Phillips, who wants the church to show LGBT persons grace while shielding our eyes from the truth that same-sex physical intimacy is wrong, and the wrongness really matters. It’s really damaging. It’s really sin.
Other Christians seem to want to be really full of truth. That’s my impression of Gary with his talk of “perverts.” In another comment he said that “perverts” never change. There’s no grace there.
That last comment shows how badly even truth gets distorted without grace. The truth is, God gives grace to anyone who will receive it. Grace and truth can’t really be separated. Grace without truth isn’t fully grace, for the truth is good for us even if it’s hard. And truth without grace isn’t fully truth: it’s ugly and unloving, unlike God Himself.
Seeking to Live It Out
Going back to Gary’s comment, then, am I beating my head against a rock? Am I wasting my life? What if nothing I do changes lives or culture the way it needs changing? Make no mistake; influencing culture is one of my chief goals in life.
But the wider culture around Jesus wasn’t much different when He left the earth than when He arrived. So that can’t be the test of a life well lived. We can measure the quality and success of Christian strategy in many ways. But the first test has to be whether we’re following Jesus.
You can change culture without truth: plenty of lying leaders have proved it’s possible. You can change the world without grace: history is filled with stories of harsh dictators. But you can’t have a truly Christian strategy without grace and truth in full measure together.