Over the past weeks we have been reflecting on the challenge we face serving at a time when it seems like “argument” is the default approach to everything, and extreme polarization is the posture from which we argue. Unfortunately, Christians have been infected by this cultural malady, despite the great harm it does to the Church’s testimony. The challenge, it seems, is to get our message of truth heard, and it seems the only way to be heard is to join the shouting match. Therefore, at times it is tempting to feel that if we have truth, then it matters less how we speak, for truth trumps disposition. As tempting as that may be, I would suggest that is counterproductive, and more importantly, antithetical to the examples and mandate of God’s Word to us.
No one had a better grasp on truth than Jesus. No one understood better than Jesus both the distortions of truth and the cost of untruth. Further, Jesus lived in context and time that was no more friendly to His message than today’s culture. God’s people (at least most of the leaders) didn’t like him or his message. Very few were cheering for him, and even less understood the message he was bringing. No one deserved to “shout the truth” more than Jesus. But, as we well know, he did not do that. John describes the very character of Jesus, from the beginning of his ministry.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV)
And, lest we didn’t catch it the first time, he repeats that only three verses later.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 NIV)
In his second letter, John again repeats the refrain: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” (2 John 1:3 NIV)
Additionally, the apostle Paul says in Acts 24 that his accusers did not find him “arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city.” (Acts 24:11 NIV)
Here’s the point: from what I see in the New Testament, mostly from the life of Jesus but beyond that as well, truth is never an excuse to be argumentative.
Truth is never an excuse to be mean spirited. I like to say that for the Christian, truth doesn’t travel alone. Truth travels with grace and love.
Jesus’s example makes it clear that we can stand for truth and also express grace – the two are not antithetical. In fact, they are coupled. That is made clear to us in Scripture, and it is made clear because we need to see it! Truth is never an excuse to leave grace and love in the dust.
So, how are we doing as a movement? Are we delivering truth wrapped in grace and love? Doing so, especially in the present age we are in, will more effectively draw attention to — and affirm the validity of — the truth with which we have been entrusted with. If we must argue, let our arguments be made through our grace and love, the only conduit through which we deliver truth.
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