The Stretch: Grace and Truth Part 1

All of the best things in life and faith involve a stretch. We know WHAT the stretch is, but HOW do we take that stretch?

We need a clear picture of HOW because the true quality of love isn’t measured when things are easy, it’s measured when things are hard.

  1. When things are complicated.
  2. When the feelings aren’t there.
  3. When the path ahead is uncertain.
  4. When there’s disagreement or a different vision of what’s right.

This is true in all relationships as we live in a complicated, complex world. Many people make promises they can’t keep, and promises are no substitute for preparation. We commit to things without really understanding what we’re signing up for.

Likewise, it’s easy for us to sit in our faith and say that we love people outside of it. It’s much harder when we actually encounter those people and discover they don’t look, act, or think like us, or they do things that seem objectionable to us.

It pushes our buttons, and if we’re honest, fear begins to slip into the spaces that love ought to occupy. As Christians in America, we have a problem: as much as we talk about faith, hope, and love, the world around us doesn’t know us as faith, hope, and love kinds of people.

So, how do we prepare so that when things are challenging, the world doesn’t shake or throw us off course?

It comes from understanding what love really is, what love does, and how followers of Jesus operate with it. We need to paint a clear picture of who we will be when it becomes difficult. We’ll need to stretch away from some things and stretch toward some new things.

Ephesians 4
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

This effort is going to feel tiring, even exhausting, at times.

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

This is challenging to analyze from the original, but Paul quotes Psalm 68. Jesus received the spoils of victory over death, sin, and the grave, but then He gave those spoils to us as gifts. We’ve been given grace, and He also gave us each other.

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

So, three important words recur throughout this passage and will anchor us: love, grace, and truth. They’re interconnected.

  • Grace gives love, heart, and life.
  • Truth gives love, substance, and shape.

Everyone loves the idea that God is love. No one will disagree with that. Even people with no meaningful faith or religious identity will smash the like button on Facebook: “Love God, love others.” But when we attach some objective realities (truths) to God, much less of us like it.

However, any genuine love relationship involves truth. For love to be love – enduring, unshakable, and transcendent of whims and feelings, it needs to be anchored in objective reality (otherwise known as truth).

Without truth, you might have feelings, but you don’t have love.

Think about childhood crushes on celebrities. We might think there is “love,” but there’s no objective reality or truth.

  • Love holds Grace and Truth up together.

It’s really the only thing that can. If you’re truly giving grace, it’s because love is carrying the weight.

If you want to truly speak truth, be aware that any “truth” you want to hang on “love” requires love to be strong enough to hold it up.

Speaking the truth in love doesn’t equal being a jerk in the name of Jesus. The scriptures say that Jesus, our model of perfect love, was “full of grace and full of truth.”
Grace AND Truth. The writer is saying that Jesus brought something entirely different to the world than what was already there – and not half and half – 100% and 100%. In the original language, Grace and Truth were seen as singular, welded together, and without separation. And Jesus was full of both.

What are you full of? What would the people around you say you’re full of? Jesus could’ve come “full of” many things – judgment or condemnation. If we are to reflect Jesus, we must reflect this unique tension. This requires us to stretch.
Grace without truth is not really grace. Truth without grace is not really truth. Grace without truth pampers. Truth without grace hammers.
Grace without truth is love without correction. Truth without grace is correction without love.
Grace without truth is mercy without justice. Truth without grace is justice without mercy.
Grace without truth is soft and spoils people. Truth without grace is harsh and crushes people.
Grace without truth is freedom without responsibility. Truth without grace is responsibility without freedom. Either extremes are neither of Christ or the Gospel.
                                                                                                            ~ Richard PW Tan

These are held in perfect tension and unity. Only God can create this tension and unity perfectly, and it should drive us to our knees in humility and prayer at any point we attempt to wade into it, even with the power of God in us.

The only way we can do this is if our hearts are overflowing with the love God has lavished on us. If we’re full of that, we’re full of Grace AND Truth. So, what do we do with this?

It requires speaking truth where we’ve been hiding behind grace—where it’s hard. It requires that we give grace where truth has become a shield or weapon—where it’s costly to do so.

If we minimize grace, the world sees no hold for salvation. If we minimize truth, the world sees no need for salvation. To show the world Jesus, we need both.

What does love require of us?

  • Sometimes it requires us to step up.
  • Sometimes it requires us to shut up.
  • Sometimes it requires us to speak up.
  • It often requires us not to give up.
  • It always requires us to show up.
  • It usually is the more uncomfortable option. (If you’re “comfortable” doing whatever you think Jesus is calling you to do, you might want to re-check yourself.)
  • It always requires us to sacrifice.

Between Grace and Truth, one of these is easier for us to reach for. But love is doing the hard thing. It’s a stretch.

Moving what we know in our heads to our hearts is merely the exercise of truth catching on fire.
                                                                                                                        ~ Pastor Tim Keller

So, we have to ask ourselves, what does love require of me?

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