In the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack, an ongoing debate in the Christian community has once again taken center stage. Should Christians extend abundant grace to all or should we stand firm on the truth of God’s Word?
What is the answer? Grace or truth? The answer is a resounding “yes!”
It’s not grace or truth. It’s grace and truth. As Christians, we cannot leave either by the wayside. Jesus, “who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), is our example.
Yes, the suffering world desperately needs the love and grace of Jesus. But it’s sin that has caused the suffering in the world. Our culture is saturated with its devastating consequences.
Grace Covers Every Sin
Sin is a cancer eating away at the fabric of our society. We see its effects everywhere. Our prisons overflow. The family is disintegrating. Sex fuels the popular culture. This cancer needs a cure before it’s too late for the patient. We need God’s grace and His truth.
A few years ago when this same issue heated up over a controversial interview with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, one well-known Christian author wrote that she chooses to “preach the scandalous love of Jesus in the face of any issue, demographic, or debate.” Yet, how can we share the love of Christ without sharing His greatest act of love.
“But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The Gospel isn’t the Gospel without the “Jesus died for our sins” part (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Jesus died for our sins. Without the acknowledgment of sin, there will be no recognition of a need for a Savior. And there will be no salvation. No spiritual healing.
The world needs both grace and truth, but they also won’t respond to a dogmatic diatribe of right and wrong. While we must not hesitate to share God’s truth, our conversation must always be “full of grace” (Colossians 4:6), presented with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). (For more on how Christians can interact with a lost world read “Should Christians be the Morality Police?”)
Of course, there will be times – no matter how graciously we present God’s truth – that the hearers will respond with anger and hate. The message of the Cross is foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18). For some, it is a sweet aroma of life, but to others it is the smell of death (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). But that should not keep us from sharing the Good News. And we should not water it down to make it more palatable.
The Gospel is good news because Jesus will receive any and every sinner! There is no sin too great, no background too sordid, no heart too rebellious. Jesus’ sacrificial death covers it all. The cross is able to heal all wounds.
Jesus Calls Believers to Holiness
Yet on the redeemed side of the cross, He calls us to live holy lives. Just as He lifted the woman caught in adultery and said, “Go and sin no more,” He raises us up in new lives and tells us to “live a life worthy of the calling we have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Sadly many today who proclaim Christ embrace a form of “Christianity” that looks more like our culture than like Christ. (Read more about cultural Christianity in this excellent article by Stephanie Shott.)
Yes, Jesus invites us to come to Him just as we are. But, He doesn’t want us to stay just as we are.
God calls the prideful to humility.
God calls the selfish to give.
God calls the gossip to speak only word that build up and encourage.
And calls the sexually immoral to purity.
In other words, God calls believers to holiness (Ephesians 4:24). We cannot sweep continued, unrepentant sin under a “rug of grace.” Jesus died for our sins because they were heinous enough to separate us from God. Our sins cost Jesus His life. How can we simply continue to live in them? But that’s what we do when we ignore the truth about what God calls sin.
Yes, Jesus is loving, but He is also just. Jesus is merciful, but He is also holy. We must not misrepresent Jesus to either the world or the Church.
It’s not grace or truth. It’s grace and truth. Both/and. Amen and amen.