Walk the Line: Truth & Grace

Posted: May 17, 2013 by Dillon in Lifestyle
Tags: , , , , , ,

This is going to be my last post before I leave for the Middle East.  I’ve spent about two weeks considering what I want my last (for now) thoughts to be, and God revealed a topic that I think is a great fit.

“Truth without grace is brutality, and grace without truth is hypocrisy.”

–Warren Wiersbe

As Christians, our constant goal is to become Christ like, making our lives into a living testimony.  One of the hardest parts about the Christian life is finding a balance between truth and grace.  Truth is going by God’s Word and commandments, the commands of Jesus, etc.  Grace, in this case, is a Christian freely offering forgiveness and love to anyone.  A practical example would be condemning premarital sex as a violation of God’s will, but forgiving a friend who made such a choice.

However, it gets much more complicated.  Over the last year I’ve noticed that Christians as a whole can be split into two camps: those who tend to focus too much on truth and not enough on grace, and those who focus too much on grace and not enough on truth.  These are big categories and I’m sure you could place yourself into one of them.  It’s important to remember that neither one is inherently bad.  The only person who ever balanced truth and grace was Jesus, and I don’t need to tell you that we are going to fall short of that standard.

Each side has its strengths and weaknesses.  I personally am prone to too much truth and not enough grace.  And just to be fair, I’ll spend more time on the side I’m familiar with.  Christians who are stronger in truth tend to have a firm grasp of theology and an understanding on some of the more complex Biblical ideas and passages.  These Christians tend to be very strong in head knowledge and make good teachers.  However, these are the Christians usually viewed as legalistic, sometimes even zealous, and can appear very condescending.

Christians who are stronger in grace tend to have a strong knowledge of the words of Jesus specifically and are always striving to love others.  They are very strong in heart knowledge and make great friends and examples.  However, these Christians are usually viewed as having weak or “soft” theology, being wishy-washy, and appear inconsistent to the outside world.

Being one of the head knowledge Christians often puts me at odds with heart knowledge Christians (I’ll use those two names now).  Usually our disagreements are over what different passages mean in our lives today, how to interact with other believers, and so on.  I have to stress that our disagreements are never over the essentials, like Christ.

Living as a head knowledge Christian also provides a much easier route to prideful behavior.  It is all too easy to fool myself into thinking that my extended study of theology makes me a “better” Christian than someone else.  This is a daily struggle.  At first, my thirst for understanding led me to absorb what all other Christians said.  Eventually I started delving into my own study and I encountered a big problem.  I tricked myself into thinking my superior knowledge of theology enabled me to save people.  I wanted to be a spiritual vigilante, acting apart from the way God ordained things to be.  While I had good intentions, my heart was twisting everything to be about what I could accomplish, what I could do for the kingdom.  And that’s not how it’s supposed to be.

The hardest part about being a head knowledge Christian is allowing yourself to be forgiven.  Through enough study, it becomes relatively easy to forgive others, because you know nothing they could do would be too much for God. But your own sin, that’s a different story.  As I’ve read through Romans and studied apologetics, it has only become more and more obvious just how bad I am.  Just how unlovable I am.  And no amount of scripture knowledge makes it any easier to really understand that my wickedness is still within God’s ability to forgive.  

Without grace, we’re stuck in an Old Testament mind set.  Sadly, this is where I find myself a lot.  I’m so envious of my heart knowledge friends who can fully embrace what it means to live in freedom through Christ.  I understand it, but it takes a conscious effort to remember it’s real.

That might have sounded pretty gloomy and depressing, but not everyday is so downtrodden.  There have definitely been seasons where I find myself as a heart knowledge Christian, much more concerned with love and forgiveness than correct doctrine.  I think the whole reason there are these two camps is because they complement each other so well. Grace can be appreciated so much more when it’s combined with truth.  Each group also can learn a lot from the other.  

I have two men who I really look up to for spiritual guidance.  One of them is incredibly strong in head knowledge, and the other in heart knowledge.  Having a balance of both not only helps our own lives, but it gives a better testimony for Christ.  Jesus was always truthful, but He was never without grace.  That’s the standard I try to achieve.  And when I realized I couldn’t do it on my own, that’s when I started to make progress.

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