Have you ever been invited to a church, and something was said that agitated you or was completely wrong, and before the service was over, you made up your mind to never step foot in that church again? I went to a church that condemned women who wore skinny jeans and short-sleeved shirts. I was wearing skinny jeans and a short sleeved shirt that night. I tried to cover up my arms in shame, but as soon as the service was over, I ran away and never looked back!
A friend of mine had not attended church in years, and was invited to visit a relative’s church one week. She went, and it couldn’t have gone worse. The speaker that day openly mocked and was judgmental of a transvestite whom she had encountered. My friend, who had a Christian background, was appalled by this, because during her previous church background, she had been taught that God was supposed to be one and only true judge. Supposedly, we as humans are not supposed to judge one another, but to love one another instead. If this was the concept that her church had taught her before, then surely this church she was visiting was completely insane. They were a bunch of hypocrites. She would never go back. The speaker had already ruined her testimony, and there was no chance that my friend was ever going back. Frankly, I don’t blame her.
Grace and truth are always together in Jesus’s teachings. Truth is God’s unchanging standards and laws; the biblical concepts and rules we are taught to follow. Truth points out our sin, yet, by itself, can be harsh when it’s not coupled with God’s grace. In order for truth to be effective, it has to come under the weight of grace, which is the unmerited favor of God. God’s grace says, “you are not your past,” and “your sins do not define you, nor do I hold them against you any longer.” In the same way, grace without truth can turn into a free-for-all “anything is ok” mentality. But Jesus uses both grace and truth in His interactions with unbelievers. Together they point to Jesus by showing us that we are sinners who deserve punishment for our sin, but because Jesus took our punishment upon Himself and grants us an unearned position in God’s eyes, we are no longer going to get what we deserve. In order for the truth to pierce your heart and lead you to repentance, it has to come under the weight of grace.
How can I prove my point? Answer these questions. How did Jesus make Himself known to you when you got saved? Did Jesus call you “Beloved,” “accepted,” “righteous,” “son,” or “daughter?” Or did he call you by the name of your sin? Did God encourage you, believe in you, and speak love to you? I know the answer to these questions, because I know that Jesus does not see our sin in us any longer. The sins we have done and have yet to do are already paid for. Here’s what the bible says about grace in Ephesians 2:8-9;
“For by grace have you been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
God’s gift of grace allowed us to become saved! And further, it is not something WE did! It’s a free gift from God, so we are given no leverage to brag about how righteous we are! In Christ, we are given a right standing with God (Romans 3:24), but in no way does that give us the right to judge unbelievers! Before I was following Christ, people could have called me a lot of names (which I’m not going to repeat here), but if a Christian called me one of those names, I would have tuned out anything else that they were saying. Even if it was 100% truth, truth that is not covered in grace is going to come off as rash and impersonal, valuing judgement over any personal, relational element.
It is by Jesus’ loving grace that we were called into His family, and by truth that we saw our sin for what it was: sin. Jesus didn’t come to judge the world, but that through Him the world might be saved (John 3:17).
We all are sinners who did not deserve the forgiveness that Jesus freely offered us, but we received the grace and freedom that Christ gave us when He died on the cross for our sake. That kind of levels the playing field, knowing that nothing that we could do or earn could ever make us right with God! Praise God for sending His Son Jesus, who died and reconciled us to God, and the only thing we have to do is believe in faith that Jesus is God’s only Son.
By Susan Kurtz | 220 Youth Counselor