I was caught red-handed.
I was young, but not too young to know that I was in big trouble. We’d been tagging along with Mom up and down the endless aisles of the hardware store. I was bored. Too bored.
But then, on one aisle, there appeared an oasis in the desert. Whereas most aisles held tools and supplies far out of my reach, this aisle had row after row of treasures right within my grasp! Nails and screws and bolts and washers…I was in heaven. It seemed like there were millions of little plastic drawers full of priceless gems at eye-level, just there for the taking.
So, I grabbed a handful of screws and stuffed them into my pocket. The perfect crime.
Eventually we left the store. Convinced that my heist had gone undetected, I took out the screws from my pocket and began to play with them. Well, Mom immediately saw me with the eyes in the back of her head. It didn’t take her long to put two and two together, drag me back to the car, and haul me across town to the hardware store.
There, faced with the unavoidable reality of my guilt, I walked up to the counter and had to confess my sin. One of my earliest memories in life is looking up at the man behind the counter. He was tall, a hundred feet tall, with a beard like Moses. He looked like God might look—if God worked at a hardware store.
There, before the man I had offended, I spilled the beans. I gave the screws back and admitted what I’d done, trembling in fear. I expected nothing short of divine retribution. Yet there, faced with the truth of what I’d done, I got my first taste of grace. Instead of making me spend the rest of my days atoning for my crime by cleaning toilets in the hardware store, the man forgave me. I walked out of the store a free man (boy).
Grace Is Amazing, Isn’t It?
Yet, we only taste the amazing-ness of grace when we first taste the ugliness of our sin. Without truth, grace is cheap. And without grace, truth kills.
John 1:14 says, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus wasn’t full of truth some of the time and full of grace other times. Jesus was all truth and all grace, all the time.
So, the question is not: “Grace or truth?”
The question is: “How can we be full of grace and truth?”
Which Are You Prone To?
Jesus displayed grace and truth in perfect harmony. However, most of us tend to gravitate toward one or the other.
All-grace people are primarily concerned with making us feel loved. They cut us lots of slack. They’re easygoing, accepting, welcoming, hospitable, tolerant. However, all-grace people can focus so much on accepting us for who we are that they never challenge us to become who we should be.
All-truth people are primarily concerned with what is right. They have principles and convictions. They set standards and speak articulately to fight against injustice, temptation, and falsehood. However, all-truth people can be quick to judge, slow to forgive, and off-putting with their bulldog reputation.
Which are you prone to?
Striking the Proper Balance
She was caught red-handed.
She cowered on the ground, exposed and ashamed, surrounded by the angry voices of her accusers. Everyone saw her. Everyone knew what she’d done. She’d been caught in the act.
Adultery. Guilty as charged.
They held rocks, ready to give her the skull-smashing she deserved. Maybe, just maybe, this Jesus would save her. But when Jesus spoke, her hope vanished. “Alright,” Jesus said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
She closed her eyes in terror, waiting for the first blow.
Instead, she heard the sound of a rock falling to the ground. Thud. Then one-by-one, more rocks fell. Thud, thud, thud. The sound of grace.
Soon, it was quiet. She opened her eyes and saw that the only person left was Jesus, kneeling down and looking right into her eyes, into her heart. Jesus asked her softly, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” The sound of truth. John 7:53-8:11.
What We All Need
Truth is, I need grace. We all need grace. Thankfully, Jesus is shockingly merciful with each of us. He catches us red-handed in our sin, and makes us innocent anyway. That’s grace. He doesn’t tell us to clean up our act before we come to Him. He wants us to come to Him in all our brokenness, rebellion, and pain. Come as you are. That’s grace.
But we also need truth. In the same chapter as His confrontation with the adulterous woman, Jesus says, “…the truth will set you free…Everyone who sins is a slave to sin…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus commands the adulterous woman to leave her life of sin. He calls us to the same thing. Come as you are, but don’t stay that way.
We need Jesus in His grace to tell us the truth: we are not okay. We need Jesus in His truth to give us grace: He loves us anyway.
This week when someone offends you, hurts you, wrongs you, disobeys you, disregards you, or apologizes to you…don’t choose between grace or truth. Be full of both, as Jesus is to you.
Choose to be gracious enough to extend shocking, undeserved, unconditional love.
Choose to be truthful enough to challenge people to become who Christ wants them to be.
Choose to show the same love Jesus showed you. A love that took the truth of your sin to the cross so that you can live in the truth of His grace.