And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Over the past few months, I’ve heard a couple Christian speakers mention this verse in their messages. They discuss what it looks like to fall too much on the grace side: sinning over and over again, but not really caring because you can just ask for forgiveness on Sunday morning. Then they discuss what it looks like to fall too much on the truth side: legalistically following rules and creating a checklist-driven faith. They present grace and truth as two gaping pits on opposite sides of a tightrope, with Jesus the only capable acrobat. The rest of us follow Him by teetering along, arms outstretched, always leaning one way or another and eventually falling into the merciful nets below.
I’m calling BS on that one.
I just don’t think grace and truth are polar opposite ends of a spectrum. Maybe it’s my personal inclination, but I feel like that line of logic is almost always used to intimidate into obedience. “Yes, God is endlessly merciful and abundantly gracious, BUT… do what He says or else.” That’s a little dramatic, of course, but presenting grace and truth as polar opposites automatically shames dependence on God’s mercy. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop; “yes, you’re forgiven, BUT you can’t take advantage of that forgiveness and you have to go obey right now.” The immediacy of the contrast creates a frantic pace leading toward perfectionism.
As I’ve reflected on this verse and the way speakers have taught about it, I’ve come to realize what I believe is the simple heart of the matter:
GRACE IS THE TRUTH.
It sounds so simple as to be almost unbelievable, but to me, this explanation makes the most sense. If the Word of God is true and the Word of God tells of grace, how can grace be anything but the truth? In the back of my Bible, the concordance lists 21 verses for grace and 11 for gracious. Some of those are:
- Thus says the Lord: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.’ (Jeremiah 31:2-3)
- Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)
- For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
- Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 30:18)
- The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (Psalm 103:8)
The grace described above in the truth of Scripture is true grace. True grace is not an impossible balancing act. True grace isn’t in contrast with the Bible; rather, it’s a vital thread woven into the very heart of God’s word and the Gospel message. True grace is not a message of “God forgives you BUT…”. I am so sick of God-forgives-you-BUT Christianity. God-forgives-you-BUT Christianity stifles true affection for God by immediately following forgiveness with commands. It’s unnecessary, because if you actually take a moment to sit in the overflowing grace and love of God, you just want to lean in to Him. You don’t have to threaten people to obey; you need to give them space to let the miracle of forgiveness sink in. God-forgives-you-BUT Christianity displays the kind of Jesus who leaves breadcrumbs hoping we’ll follow Him, then exhales an annoyed sigh when we don’t get it right. That’s not the Jesus I find in the Bible, or the Christ I have come to know in a deep, personal relationship.
John 1:14 says that Jesus is “full of grace and truth.” Not “Jesus perfectly balanced grace and truth.” Not “Jesus perfectly walked the tightrope of grace and truth and never fell into either pit.” No, Jesus is full of grace and truth. How can He be full of two things that are polar opposites? Is it not actually much easier and more straightforward to believe that He is full of grace and truth because, in Christ, grace is the truth?
Let’s stop buying into the message that grace and truth are two opposite extremes. Let’s stop viewing grace and truth as Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots, duking it out until one overcomes the other and we have to reset our footing. If that’s the case, one has to win and the other has to lose. But I believe my Jesus is victorious over all, and nothing about Him can lose. I believe in a Heavenly Father who doesn’t ask me to walk a tightrope, but to give Him a giant hug. I believe that grace is the truth—and what a beautiful, powerful truth it is. Together, may we embrace it; believe it; trust it; and live it.