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Rethinking Grace and Truth

While hanging out with the YMCP cohort, Marko made a passing comment last night in response to a dichotomy I had made between grace and truth:

“Grace isn’t the opposite of truth. Grace and truth go hand in hand. Maybe permissiveness could be the opposite of truth, but permissiveness isn’t grace.”

I think I’d heard the question, “are you a ‘grace’ person or a ‘truth’ person?” enough in my context that this false dichotomy had sunk itself into my thinking. What people were really asking with this question was, “are you a nice person who passively allows people to sin, or are you a mean person who calls people out on their crap and makes them feel bad?” I never knew how to answer the question. I didn’t want either to be me, and I don’t see Jesus doing either in Scripture. I want to say that I’m in the process of seeing and embracing both grace and truth.

Grace is so much more than being permissive about sin. It’s the gift of life, the very breath I am breathing in this moment, the joy of having a family and a home and friends and a good cup of coffee and nearly everything in between. Yes, grace involves God’s forgiveness of sin. But reducing it to this may cause us to miss out on the full richness of God’s grace.

Truth, also, is so much more than just pointing out sin. It’s the reality of the kingdom of God in our midst, the anchor we cling to when life seems to be falling apart, everything spoken and revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Yes, truth may include pointing out the dark reality of sin in people’s lives. But truth is grace itself; it the revelation of God to you and me.

My paradigm has shifted. The false dichotomy has been deconstructed. And even as I type this, I realize that this is both grace and truth–the realization of reality, the awareness of the deep grace-and-truth-filled love of Jesus permeating the present.

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Joel Mayward is a pastor, writer, youth worker, and film critic. The author of three books, he has written for numerous ministry publications, including Christianity Today, Christ and Pop Culture, Leadership Journal, YouthWorker Journal, Immerse Journal, The Youth Cartel, and LeaderTreks. You can read his musings on film, theology, and culture at his personal blog, www.joelmayward.com. For his film reviews and essays, check out www.cinemayward.com. Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelmayward.