Reflection on Grace & Truth

The ‘Grace and Truth Spring Conference’ is now in our rear-view mirror but the reality of what was shared is still burning in my heart. I might share many reflections but one lingering bitter-sweet reality has occupied my mind – simultaneously holding two realities in tension (or more accurately in a harmonious relationship). The beauty of Jesus’ character is most clearly perceived in the tension (grace & truth) He masterfully brings together in His interactions with people. This proves to be very challenging when it comes to our own lives. In the book ‘Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes’, the authors make an interesting observation: They noted that “Westerners are tempted to compromise because we tend to view the world dualistically. Things are true or false, right or wrong, good or bad.” This means the discomfort of holding different values in tension unsettles the Western heart and mind.

We ask questions such as: Is God sovereign or does man have free will? We want certainty and clear categories. We want to answer yes to one and no to the other. Mutually exclusive categories are the comfort zone of the Western mind. An Eastern mind will simply answer yes to the question as a whole because there is a willingness to embrace the difficulty or inability to completely make sense of the implications of the answer in theory or practice. The working definitions for grace (underserved & unconditional favour) and truth (reality as God defines it) ultimately bring with them some practical challenges. At the heart of grace is inclusivity & at the heart of truth is exclusivity. How can they function so close to each other without diminishing one another? During the conference, the paradigm we had to keep in mind was this: “Grace becomes soft if not strengthened by truth & truth becomes hard if not softened by grace”. Instead of diminishing each other, grace and truth enrich the understanding and experience of the other. With that being said, I realise that I sometimes reduce my view of Jesus and the application of my faith to those same categories.

I will either embrace grace at the expense of truth or embrace truth at the expense of being gracious. The inability to live in tension gives me a skewed understanding of Jesus as well as a deficient application of what is so clearly seen in His life. This led me to a bit of a reflection on the very character and nature of Jesus. Jesus, being God, possesses all the attributes of God himself. These attributes (that which makes Him who He is) are called the perfections of God in theological circles. God, in his perfections, is unaffected by the possibility of change. This means that Jesus cannot be more gracious than He is nor can He be less gracious than He is. This goes for the truth as well. Jesus Himself said that He is the truth (John 14:6). Jesus’ attributes are not merely what He does but it is who He is. His graciousness and truthfulness are perfected in their essence as well as in their expression. You & I are called to follow this Jesus. What a challenge & privilege that is put before us.

Let us take courage and go where Jesus is – a world full of beautiful tensions.