Saturday began at the Temecula DMV offices. At a certain age, renewing your driver’s license requires taking the written test. Guess they want to see if we can still think, and I get that. After discovering that making an appointment online couldn’t be done until after my birthday, I left my house at 7:30. AM. Yeah. Honestly, joy didn’t fill the two hour sojourn. The first online application didn’t work, so I had to repeat it. And the written test grew to two, for the motorcycle.
But they had the process organized, and the DMV workers were all helpful and friendly. That helps—a lot. While working with the main clerk, I mentioned how the first online application didn’t take. She revealed her stepdad once erased her homework—too sloppy and hard to read. She got a bit upset, maybe even angry, but that turned to gratitude—she learned to do her best, landed a good job with good co-workers, and later thanked him for the life lesson.
So, what’s our spiritual life lesson? Truth can have a hard edge. Sloppy work can hurt us. In my decades of working with young people, as a youth pastor and educator, I often heard them say, “My parents don’t love me. They’ll let me do anything I want.” Love means protecting those we love from unnecessary pain. Consequences come from bad decisions and actions. The kids got that lack of protectiveness.
We find that balance in Jesus, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Truth: he commands obedience, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Grace: we will still sin, but God forgives and restores us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
So, some quick principles on how to incorporate these almost paradoxical truths.
1. Truth has a hard edge at times. For just one example, those who chose to not believe in Jesus will not live with him in heaven, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).
2. Bad choices carry consequences. Almost 20 years ago, curiosity got me enmeshed in porn. God has forgiven and restored me, with him and with my wife. But that exposure changed me, and I need extra caution today.
3. Grace is real. A relationship with God doesn’t come from being good but from knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord. Savior—we trust in him to forgive our sins, sins which continue all our lives. Lord—he’s boss and makes the rules. Grace is unmerited favor that keeps us with him.
4. Restoration is the synthesis of grace and truth. In 1 Corinthians, Paul chastised the church for allowing a man to have sex with his mother-in-law. They all changed, the sin ended, and restoration came, “Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:6-7). A nice blend!
Let’s not go to extremes, but balance grace and truth. Grace by itself leads to loosey goosey faith. Truth by itself leads to rigidity and condemnation. Either, alone, eliminates a key aspect of Jesus.
Kick Starting the Application
Do you tend to lean closer to grace or truth? Why? What God-given boundaries do you most struggle with? Do you use grace as an excuse to continue in that? How can you better balance grace and truth as you follow Jesus?