Dear Jami and Zach,
Let me tell you a mystery I’ll never fully understand. It’s an important mystery.
We need Truth
Like it or not, we are all looking for Truth. I believe we all have a longing to know what is True in this life and what isn’t. I think every honest person has a sense that they are broken and we are searching for answers or “Truths”. It’s like there is something inside of us that knows something is off; but who can tell us what “right” is? I understand we all have “truths” in life that are unique to who we are and our own experiences. But what about “Truths” with a capital T that are true for everyone? How many of those are there and who can tell us what they are? It seems our culture doesn’t like this topic, but our longing for it is clear. When we see injustice. When we see something wrong and want the world to change. Or when we see something beautiful and we want the whole world to see it. The X-Files were right, “The Truth is out there”; but who can see it clearly?
We long for Grace
All of us have moments where we see how radically broken we are. We have seen and experienced things in life too where we see how broken the world is. And we all want to know we are loved anyway in-spite of who we really are. We all want hope and change for the world no matter how dark it seems. We want unlimited chances to mess up and know we are still loved deeply. But who can love us if they knew all the facts? Would someone really offer me grace again and again after they see the truth in my heart?
Struggling to tell the Truth (Blue)
Telling the truth isn’t easy.
Who am I to tell you what is True and what isn’t? I might see something wrong with you and I want to address it; but what if the issue is me? How can I help you with Truth if maybe I’m the one who needs help? Maybe the issue appears clear to you, but it doesn’t to your friend who you are trying to help. You need an authority outside yourself that is greater than you. You need something more.
The best I can offer is a fragmented truth. Lets say the issue/question was black and white and obvious to everyone. Are you sure you are giving the full Truth and not just parts of it that you are comfortable with? How can you be sure that you understand the full Truth of something and not just the parts you think you understand. If you are going to point something out to someone or work on something in your own life working with only a part and not the whole can sometimes be more dangerous. It’s easy to bring something up to a friend and walk away leaving them even more damaged and hurt.
At best, my view of Truth is broken. Fragmented. A shadow of what it really should be.
Struggling to offer Grace (Yellow)
We all have limits. If my friend hurts me I can work to offer him grace. If he does it again, I can dig a little deeper and offer it again. Each time I’m offended by him I can dig even deeper to extend him grace, a chance to try again and love him in-spite of this betrayal. But there will be a limit. There will be a time when I say, “No more. I’m done.” While in theory I wish I could always love my friend, I have a limit to what I can take. I don’t think I’m alone.
We all discriminate. None of us are capable of extending full grace while we are also looking at the truth of who someone is. We all have a list of what we can tolerate and can’t tolerate. For example: One person might have the courage to forgive a murderer; but not a racist. Another person might forgive the racist; but not a betrayal from a father. The list goes on. I think we all have things we can’t tolerate. There are some people we like more than others. We struggle to offer Grace evenly and without discrimination.
At best, my grace is half. Cheap. A shadow of what it really should be.
It’s my view that it’s impossible for any person to offer full Truth and Grace within a relationship at the same time.
There is only one place where yellow and blue make green.
The answer to a question I didn’t realize I was struggling with was in John 1:14.
Here is the mystery I’ll never fully understand. While you and I struggle to tell the Truth and offer Grace we are going there is only one way to experience both at the same time in all of their fullness and John 1:14 tells us.
Jesus came, “full of Grace and Truth.” Both co-exist, fully, through Jesus.
You see it in everything he does and everyone he meets in the Gospels.
Here is an example. John 8:2-11
Honestly, all you have to do is read any story where Jesus encounters someone and you will see him full of Grace and Truth. Here is one of my favorites:
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
So much is going on in this paragraph. It starts with Jesus teaching “Truth”. Then the Jewish leaders who are supposed to be about “Truth” are trying to trap Jesus in his own words by using a woman and “making her stand before a group”. The religious leaders are claiming to stand for “Truth” but are crushing people in the process. They are lost and using what they see as truth and are destroying people for their own agenda.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Jesus has none of it. It appears to them maybe he’s not listening. They “keep on questioning him”. They are focused on their own truth; while Jesus is focused on something else. But he’s not weak. “He straightened up and said to them…” and speaks with Truth. “If any of you is without sin; throw a stone.” Jesus holds up Truth here; a mirror. And he makes everyone look into it. Is this woman wrong? Did she not obey a Truth? Jesus asks the question, “are you wrong? Do you obey Truth?”
Jesus writes on the ground a second time; taking the attention off the woman and onto their own hearts. The Old Testament Law says that sin should be punished; but Jesus came and changed all of that. The Law became a person. Truth became a person. And the Law says we are all broken. We are all sinners. And we all need a rescuer. Jesus points out that it’s not just this woman who has sinned. But everyone in the crowd. We all need a savior.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
They look at Truth; and they all walk away. Jesus showed them their own hearts.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, 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.”
Jesus straightens up a second time. Full of Grace and Truth. Grace: They are gone. You are safe. I don’t condemn you. Truth: All of these men, not just you are sinners. But go now and leave your sin behind. He doesn’t ignore what she did; he moves into her world and forgives her and gives her a new vision.
Every single story of Jesus can be looked at with this lens.
Here is the bottom line: Instead of trying to offer fragments of grace and truth I need to do two things:
- Point people to Jesus so they can experience him themselves
- Become like Jesus by understanding that I am a sinner in need of Truth being constantly remade to be more like Jesus to love people and offer Grace like I’m supposed to.
It’s what we are all hungry for.