As we talk about ideas like grace and truth, or the one or the many, the ideal, of course, is that we as Christians would have equal measures of both. That we would get this just right. That we could, in the very same breath, speak both grace and truth; with the very same arms, embrace both the many and the one.
The reality is that it just doesn't work that way.
There are very few persons in all the world who do this well, and virtually none who do it perfectly. (And none who do it effortlessly, I don't think.) We all tend either more toward grace or more toward truth, more toward the one or more toward the many. At our best, we are able to do both, but not usually at the same time.
What I mean is this - I think my natural slant is toward truth. I've often been told that I'm not necessarily wrong, but that my truth will get me in trouble (referring to the tone with which I speak what I believe to be correct). However, put me in any scenario that requires grace, and I can flip like a switch and pour out enough grace from my waterspout that we can all swim in it for a bit. (See my post on grace and truth for more on this analogy.) And I think my natural slant is also toward the many. I'm big on community and on what we're doing together about these things called life and faith. But show me someone standing on the outside, and I am all about the one.
To an onlooking world, this seems a bit hypocritical or perhaps schizophrenic. Do I not even know what it is that my God requires of me? Do I not know how to live in His ways?
On the contrary, I know exactly what my God requires of me.
I'm just not any good at it.
And that's why it is so important for us to maintain a posture of humility about these things. In political terms, we're always fighting against each other - liberal against conservative - and you'd better believe we've fought this fight so well that the world at large has an opinion about both. But that's what politics does. It has to have power. It has to be right. Christ is interested in neither because He is secure in both.
As we, however, struggle against our insecurities, it is our humility that must be the forefront example. It is our humility about these things that must speak loudest. We must be willing to say, yes, I tend toward truth, but I'm working on grace. (Or vice-versa.) We must admit that, yes, we sometimes lose sight of the one for the sake of the many, but we're trying to open our eyes wider to see. (Again, or vice versa.) We must humbly confess that, yes, we know what it is that God requires of us; we're just not that good at it.
But we're working on it.
And that's all we can do. But it starts with us using the right language to frame our theologies. Nobody says, "I'm a conservative, but I'd like to be more liberal." But almost everyone would agree with the sentiment that "I believe in truth, but I'd like to do better at grace." No one says, "I'm a liberal, but I have a lot to learn from the conservatives." But it's far easier to say, "I believe in individuals, but I have a lot to learn about community." See, putting our theological differences into theological terms allows us to be open to the ideas. It allows us to do better. Politics just shuts the whole thing down.
So be about grace. Be about truth. Be about the many. Be about the one. Be about God and all good things and doing your best and trying to do better. Be about humble confessions and a posture of humility. Be a little hypocritical, a little schizophrenic. And when you get that crazy look that says, "What are you even doing? Don't you know what your God requires of you?" respond kindly with,
"I'm trying. Because I know what my God requires of me, but I'm not any good at it yet. It's going to take a bit more practice, perhaps even a lifetime's worth. But I'm trying."