Today is the final day of study in my current study, The Grace and Truth Paradox. I’ve really enjoyed this study, because it looked at something that seemed so simple and explained why it’s not only more complex than it might seem, but it’s a much more important concept that most give it credit for. And it pushed me to express unlimited grace as well as uncompromised truth to others around me.
Today’s lesson started off with an example from scripture. In Matthew 18:23-25, Jesus told the following parable:
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.
This parable gives an excellent parallel that I think we often miss. There are three main characters – the master, the servant, and the servant’s peer who was indebted to him. The servant owed what equates to millions of dollars (10,000 talents) to his master, yet the master took pity on him and forgave his debt completely. Then, this same servant found his peer that owed him what amounted to only a few dollars (100 denarii), and refused to forgive him his debt. The master, after hearing about this, brings in his servant and reimposes the debt on him, punishing him until he is able to pay it. Obviously there is some exaggeration in this story – a master would most likely never lend millions of dollars to his servant. But it serves a purpose of showing how we must extend grace to others if we expect God to extend grace to us. The sin debt between God and us is huge – like “millions of dollars” huge – when compared to the offenses/debts our peers owe to us. If God forgives us this debt, we must find a way to forgive others.
In John 8:1-11 it tells another interesting story of grace, but with a twist:
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Here, Jesus teaches an excellent lesson on grace to all those around Him. But at the same time, He never compromises truth. The truth was that the woman had sinned, and Jesus didn’t let that go unnoticed. He told her “…leave your life of sin.”
I think as Christians, we have come across to the world as either overly gracious or overly truthful, but we haven’t done a great job at expressing both of these concepts in harmony. Most of the world thinks that we are intolerant, judgmental, and forceful with our faith. Much of the history of the church is stained with atrocities like the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, which were carried out by men who focused wholly on truth and not at all on grace. This isn’t what the Bible teaches, and this isn’t what Jesus was all about. It’s important that we remember to express grace in our transactions with people, so that we are shining who Jesus really was on them. At the same time, we must not condone people’s sinfulness (or our own, for that matter!). We must find a way to balance these concepts. Because, as Randy Alcorn put it in today’s lesson,
“If we minimize grace, the world sees no hope for salvation.
If we minimize truth, the world sees no need for salvation.
To show Jesus to the world, we must offer unabridged grace and truth, emphasizing both, apologizing for neither.”