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. – John 1:14
John’s description of Jesus as being “full of grace and truth” is maybe one of the most concise descriptions of the person of God. Jesus is the perfect balance of both grace and truth. On the one hand in His dealings with people of all stripes, He never sacrificed truth in order to be loving and gracious; while on the other hand, He never sacrificed grace as He spoke truthfully to people about their sin and need for a savior. We see this most clearly in His encounter with the rich ruler in Mark’s gospel account.
When the rich ruler came to Jesus in Mark chapter 10, asking him on bended knee “Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus truthfully began by taking him to the second half of the law which deals primarily with our dealings with others. Only after the man exclaimed with expectant joy that he had done all of those things since he was a little boy, the passage tells us how Jesus proceeded. In verse 21, Mark tells us, “Jesus looked at him, and loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ ” and with that he pointed the man through the lens of his own life to the first table of the law. I absolutely love those three short phrases “Jesus looked at him, and loved him and said to him…” because they speak of the the balance of grace and truth.
In this encounter, as in all of the scriptures, grace proceeded but did not deny truth, in fact it was Jesus’ love for this man that compelled Him to speak to him of his sin and need for a savior. As such, truth is grace because it shows the man his need for a savior, but the motive to speak truthfully is also grace, Jesus’ motive was that He loved the man.
The passage ends sadly with the these words, “Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” The man was confronted with the truth and the grace of God and still walked away sad because he loved his possessions more than he loved God. But the balance of grace and truth continues in the passage by what did not happen in it. You will notice that Jesus did not go after the man saying “Hold on buddy, I didn’t know that you would walk away, come back, lets make a deal.” To do so on the surface may have looked gracious, but in truth it would have been anything but gracious, because to do so would have been to bend or deny truth in order to seek to be gracious. No, just as grace and love compelled the speaking of truth, they also were compelled to guard it by not denying truth to make another feel good. For grace to bend truth to make the rich ruler feel good would be to send hm to hell “feeling good” about himself.
Ephesian 5, written to believers in Ephesus and today begins with these words, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” To be imitators of God is to be Christlike, to be Christlike is to be full of grace and truth. No where is that more important than in our interactions with other believers and those who yet do not. We live in a world of grey, 50 shades and more, but the church in seeking to be “relevant” simply becomes another shade of grey, with no distinction let alone reflecting the grace and truth that is Jesus. Grace in our day, to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is “cheap” and the reason that it is is because to become relevant, the church bends truth and makes deals to be seen as loving, and many are the souls, some in the pews of fine churches, who are unregenerate and find no need for it, but they “feel good”.
If the church is going to be salt and light, it must be full of grace and truth. For only then can the parched soul find its soul quenched by the well of living water.