Monday, February 17, 2020

Grace and Truth

Paul writes many words to young ministers of the faith, telling them how they ought to live and love and speak in the churches. It's important because this is a new thing that they're doing, and Paul's the guy with the experience to help them navigate some tricky waters. His words are still valuable to us in the tumultuous seas in which we live.

For example, when Paul writes to Titus, he reminds him to encourage and rebuke with the same fullness of authority (Titus 2).

One of these things is a whole lot easier than the other, and which one it is depends on the experiences you've had that have shaped you and your personality. We know persons for whom rebuking comes naturally. They love to talk about getting it right, call out those who are getting it wrong, correct everyone's failures...and usually out loud. They rebuke like it's a second language to them and really, it might be their first language. On the other hand, there are those who encourage and pour out hope and love like they're made of the stuff. They're just constantly reminding others of all they are capable of, of all they can do, and inspiring them to keep going, to keep pressing on. Encouragement just rolls naturally off of their tongues.

It's as true today as it was then. But it's also just as dangerous.

It's dangerous because when we are naturally better at rebuking or at encouraging, we tend to focus on this exclusively and leave out a huge chunk of the Christian story in doing so. Don't believe me? Let's change these words. Because "rebuke" is about truth and "encourage" is about grace, and so what we really have here is "grace" and "truth" and Paul says you are to speak both with the same fullness of authority.

Ah, now this is it. Because we live in a world that thinks that Christianity is all about "truth" - that we just love to thump our Bibles and condemn sinners to hell. This world is weary of us "judging" it and making comments about the way that it's living. It's tired of us having standards and believing that there's a better way. They don't want to hear any more about what's "right" and "wrong" and have even gone so far to say that anything can be right if we just believe that it is (except, ironically, for what we deem wrong, which is universally wrong, even if someone else believes it to be right - the world can't even live by its own relativity).

At the same time, our world is also convinced that Jesus is all about "grace" - that He just loves you no mater what and doesn't care much about what you do. You're perfect just the way you are, and Jesus doesn't want you to ever change. He wants you to just be who you are and do what you want to do and stop apologizing for your life. This world believes Jesus just green-lights everything it can think of and has done away with all the "truth" that Christianity seems to so desperately be trying to hold onto in a world that's already declared that truth just isn't relevant any more. In fact, if you hold onto truth at all, you must not be a true Christian because Christ is all grace, all the time.

We know better, of course. We know that grace and truth go hand-in-hand in the Christian story, even out of the very mouth of Jesus. Even out of the very actions He took as a man in this world. We know that the world needs both, but that one of these pills is far easier to swallow. One of these things is far easier than the other. We live in a world where we're told that the Christian way to live is encouraging, but Paul's words to Titus remind us that it's rebuking, too. And if you're one of those who more naturally rebukes, remember that Paul's words are the same to you - it's not just rebuking; it's also encouraging.

It's truth...and grace. It's grace...and truth. With the same measure of authority - fullness. The world needs both, and it needs us confident in both. It needs us believing in both. It needs us living in demonstration of both. It needs us reaching Jesus's blood-stained hand out to draw them in, stretching out as far as the east is to the west in order to bring them close. It needs us believing in them, but expecting more. Encouraging them, but teaching them. Affirming them, but challenging them.

Rebuke and encourage with the same fullness of authority. Just the way Jesus did.

This is called love

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