By Mark Penninga
“We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
Occasionally we come across a book that really challenges our thinking and impacts us for years to come. This happened to me a few years ago when I was introduced to Randy Alcorn’s book “The Grace and Truth Paradox.” This short read examines what Christian character, modeled after Christ, should look like. Its implications are staggering.
To manifest both grace and truth perfectly is unknown in our world of sin. As Alcorn explains in his summary of the book “Grace and truth found their perfect union in Christ, but the rest of us tend to gravitate toward one or the other. Truth without grace breeds self-righteousness and legalism. Grace without truth breeds deception and moral compromise. The key to true Christian spirituality is to integrate these two qualities into life, imitating the character of Christ.”
In our own lives, we each have to struggle to show both grace and truth. This applies politically just as much as in other domains of life. How many political debates are not ultimately grounded in a battle between truth and grace? Over the years, I have seen many emails written by Christians in response to a political issue that they believe in strongly which show very little grace. After all, it can be easy to view the recipient as the evil government that is making evil decisions in a clear plot against our faith. I have been guilty of this as well. This is all done with very little consideration for the person who is the recipient of the email. How do we like it when we receive a nasty piece of correspondence? Does that increase our respect for the message itself? What kind of love does this demonstrate? Christ spoke the truth, but he did so in a way that the prostitutes and tax collectors still wanted to socialize with him.
On the other side of the spectrum are the many who emphasize grace at the expense of truth. In their compassion for those suffering from poverty, AIDs, or their concern about the environment they jump on board any cause that speaks of compassion, regardless of whether it is grounded in truth. The Evangelical Climate Initiative Call to Action is one example that immediately springs to my mind. Influential Christian leaders like Rick Warren have added their name to this document calling on governments to respond to the impending doom of “climate change.” But, as others rightly point out, “motive and reason are not the same thing. It matters little how well we mean, if what we do actually harms those we intend to help.”
Grace at the expense of truth is becoming even more widespread as postmodernism’s influence grows in many churches as well. But the way to respond is not to pour out more truth without grace. Like Christ, we have to demonstrate 100 per cent of both, also as we engage in Canadian politics.
Sometimes we like to justify our actions by saying “that is just who I am – I like to emphasize truth…or grace….” But we can’t go on excusing our sin. When we discuss politics with our friends or family or write letters or emails to our government officials, let’s remember to show both grace and truth. To do this we need help. Let’s diligently read God’s Word and ask Him for His Holy Spirit to fill our lives with grace and truth.