I started Caleb Kaltenbach's book, Messy Grace, on my Kindle last night. I have to say that I am already impressed with it. It is set up so that you can use it as a lesson book. It's got questions at the end of each chapter. I am already thinking about ways I would teach it. I don't suppose that will ever happen in my present environment, but I am definitely going where God takes me with this.Things are changing in my life right now. I am in a "who knows what's going to happen" mode. We will see. This is not what I am writing about today.
In the book, Caleb talks about grace and truth and how John points out that Jesus was both of these things. John 1:14 and 17:
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
So what does that mean? It means that Jesus came with a message of forgiveness and a call to the righteousness of God. Friends, that is a big deal. That is all over the board. That is full spectrum. It covers everything about the character of God. It's not what you would call an oxymoron. These are not opposites in the real sense, but it is the reality of the situation. As Christians we long to be like Jesus, but we are a broken, bent race and so we need the grace.
Often we set high standards for ourselves. We do not always achieve them and worse, we expect others to live by our standards (that may actually be higher than God's). We err on the side of truth and we become defensive and even hateful when others fail to live up to our standards, both in the church and in the world. The other extreme here would be living in grace all the time. Anything goes. God will forgive. If He wants me to change or stop a behavior, He will have to do it.
Both of these are examples of how not to live the Christian life. Caleb, in his book, says that we have to live in the "tension" between grace and truth, because that is what Jesus did. This is why He was the personification of grace and truth. Caleb names that tension. He says that tension is love, and I think he is exactly right. It is possible to live in grace and truth as Jesus did as long as we love. Love makes forgiveness happen and it pushes people toward God's righteousness when it is applied correctly.
A scriptural example of this is found in John 8; the story of the woman caught in adultery. There is much going on in that story, but the bit about grace and truth comes at the very end. After Jesus has defeated the attempt of the religious leaders to entrap Him, He says to the woman in John 8:10, 11,
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Do you see it there? He forgives her and He advises her to leave her life of sin. Grace and truth administered in love.
This is where the Church needs to be. We can no longer afford to be the world's morality police. That was never our job anyway. Instead, we need to be bringing each other grace and truth in our church communities and showing it outwardly to the world with love.
As Caleb would say, we need to live in that tension between grace and truth and that tension is love.
Let me leave you with another question. Do you think that woman ever sinned again? I kind of think she did. Grace and truth in love people. Let's do it!