In an attempt to catch up on my studies from last week, I am going to do 2 posts today from my lessons from The Grace and Truth Paradox. My earlier post today was from the last lesson from last week, which focused on truth. The week before that focused completely on grace. This week’s studies focus on balancing grace and truth.
As a great example of balancing grace and truth, today’s lesson shared the story of the prodigal son. Allow me to share this passage from Luke 15:11-32 with you here (please forgive the length):
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “
The thing to notice here is which character in the story we most identify with. If we are truth-oriented, we probably most identify with one of the brothers. Even the younger brother who had lost all of his inheritance living in sin expected a harsh truth when he returned home. He told his father “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The older brother was also truth-oriented, getting angry when grace was shown to his sinful younger brother – as we talked about before, truth-oriented people tend to get mad when grace is shown to unbelievers, because it makes their so-called ‘righteous’ acts seem unnecessary. On the other hand, the father in this story displays complete grace. He celebrates at the return of his son, even if the son didn’t deserve anything more than a thump on the head. And when the older brother voiced his jealousy, the father said “everything I have is yours.” He showed grace to both sons.
Grace and truth are perfectly balanced, and neither one requires a compromise of the other. Randy Alcorn put it this way in today’s lesson:
“A home full of grace is also full of truth. Why? Because grace doesn’t make people less holy, it makes them more holy. Grace doesn’t make people despise or neglect the truth. It makes them love and follow truth. Any concept of grace that leaves us thinking that truth isn’t important is not biblical grace.”