The Stretch: Grace and Truth Part 2

The principle of life and faith is that all of the best things involve a stretch from where we are to something better. The stretch means you’re trading comfort for uncertainty.

Grace and Truth are the two foundations that hold up love, and love is what holds Grace and Truth together. There is tension, and because of this tension, we’re always tempted to resolve it one way or another. When we give up on Grace or Truth, everything falls apart and stops working.

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

To further complicate things, grace with no truth can work well enough when the relationship is going well. Truth without grace seems like it works when you think you have a relationship, or credibility, but you actually don’t.

Any “truth” you want to hang on “love” requires love to be strong enough to hold it up.

That’s not an idea, wishful thinking, or a sentiment. That kind of love has to be known, tested, and certain. It’s a deepened relationship. Surface-level will not survive the weight. And if our love can’t hold up our grace, then our grace is cheap. Think about how much the grace Jesus gave us cost him. Good grace is costly.

Jesus came “full of grace, and full of truth.” He came simultaneously with 100% of one and 100% of the other.

Matthew Chapter 18 describes a process many of us have seen done poorly or weaponized many times, and that’s why the context matters so much. Jesus is talking to His closest followers and, by extension, us.

Matthew 18
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

This is how God views us and views the issue. Restoration of the relationship and recovering what’s lost is the context. Not going on a crusade against sin, not fighting a culture war in the world around us, restoration.

In order for something to be restored, beauty and value must have been somehow lost. There must have been a broken relationship. God cares so much about this with humanity that He’s willing to go to extreme lengths to recover it, and we’re called to do the same with each other.

Matthew 18
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  

When you call out someone for sinning, you need to ask yourself if you’ve built a relationship that can hold up the weight of that truth. Are you willing to make that investment first? It’s a stretch.
  • Healthy confrontation is always about reserving the relationship, not someone calling out another.
  • It won't end well unless the relationship has true value, and it's not just about proving a point.
Matthew 18
If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors? He pursued them but was also aware they were not in the same kingdom.

Matthew 18

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

There’s a progression here:
  • GRACE-Truth (verse 15 – just the two of you)
  • Grace-Truth (verse 16 – establishing objective reality)
  • Grace-TRUTH (verse 17 – involving the community)
  • Boundaries (verse 17 – protective, but restorative)

Grace and Truth are the pillars. Think of a bridge. An even and level bridge makes for relationships that go both ways and can be navigated. But an unlevel bridge has someone going uphill or downhill.
  1. High Truth, low Grace – people need to climb uphill to stay close to you. When things get slippery, they slide backward and cannot maintain the relationship.
  2. Low Truth, high Grace – people can coast in the relationship downhill to you. When things get slippery, they slide downhill and bump into you a lot. It’s like a pileup on an icy road.
  3. In balance – you can navigate in any condition, even if you have to be careful and take it slow.

The trick with this relational bridge is that when road conditions in the relationship are clear and dry, you can make unbalanced relationships work, and so can the people on the other end. It’s just like driving. But when they’re slippery, everything changes.

Grace. Truth. Boundaries. When it comes to these 3 words, we often get the order wrong. We put boundaries first rather than last.

Boundaries should be a last resort. It communicates that “we aren’t living in the same kingdom.” Essentially, you aren’t speaking the same language as someone else. “Your understanding of what is true, right, and real in this relationship is fundamentally different than mine.”

How do you know when it’s time to set up a boundary?

When you’ve walked through the process of Grace and Truth, and when your soul – that God-given human dignity, sacredness, and uniqueness – is being destroyed, used, or abused. Boundaries protect what’s valuable, but they will create pain. Some people only respond to pain – not vindictively, but to get their attention.

For example, think about a guardrail on the interstate. It’s a boundary that gets your attention but will destroy your car at the same time. However, it protects you from something far worse on the other side of the guardrail.
Matthew 18
20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
This isn't about prayer; it's about unity. It's not about the absence of conflict but the balance of Grace and Truth. It's about resolving conflict and strengthening the relationship. Your relationships have real power when they're centered on Jesus. They have the power to change them and impact the world. This is why it matters to build the right kind of bridge.

Matthew 18

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

“How many times?” Peter thinks he’s being generous here. But Jesus raises the stakes for him, and for us.

Matthew 18

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

The practical application is sandwiched between 2 parables or stories about how God does this with us and for us, along with a reminder.

We have been given Grace, and we need to receive it. We have been given the truth about ourselves, and we need to receive it.

But as much as God has pursued a relationship with us, over the distance and obstacles, we are to pursue relationships with others (“brothers and sisters”). This isn’t just a familial thing by blood or association, it’s something we must build, rebuild, pursue, and restore.

So, who in your life do you need to work on your bridge with?

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