Adam Northcroft
Strawberries with gravy?

Have you ever felt that two things, both of which are good, don’t go together very easily? How about strawberries and gravy, or raising a young family and getting enough rest? These things don’t blend well generally.

I wonder if as Christians you’ve ever felt the same about grace and truth? The bible urges believers to have both these qualities, but sometimes it’s tough to see how you can express them together.

Truth requires talking to people about issues that can be very painful. In fact, truth can be brutal, leaving people hurt and overwhelmed by reality, and that isn’t graceful.

On the other hand, grace applied too thickly can mean real issues are never faced. Instead the person is merely comforted for a time, while core issues go unrecognised and unresolved. Ignoring truth like this doesn’t help.

Jesus is described as a man full of grace and truth, so how did he handle the balance?

Well, the first thing to say is Jesus did demonstrate both qualities in abundance. He never compromised on truth even in the most delicate pastoral situations, but always showed astounding grace to people through forgiveness, kindness, healing etc.

The second observation is that he often seemed to lead with one quality or other depending on the circumstance.

With the woman caught in adultery, grace leads, in fact it pours out of him. The woman is terrified having been caught in the act and facing an angry lynch mob baying for her blood.

Jesus risks his own reputation and safety by protecting her. He forgives and declares her free, and only faces her with truth at the end of this grace-filled episode with the minimum of words: “go and sin no more.”

With the Pharisees, Jesus leads with truth and he’s blunt, direct and uncompromising. There are times when he calls them hypocrites and snakes, and on another occasion refers to them as blind guides and as a ‘whitewashed tomb’.

Jesus doesn’t shy away from speaking tough truth when it’s needed, and therefore nor should we.

Christians should speak up in the strongest of terms when it’s justified. When justice is perverted or the weak are oppressed or the hungry are left to starve, it is time for believers to speak the truth loudly.

However, we also need to be known for our grace, for kindness, forgiveness and gentleness that heals and restores.

Discerning what is required is the challenge. Maybe we’d do well to remember something else Jesus said: ‘Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you.’

If we deliver truth and grace as if giving it to ourselves, then maybe the way to handle these essential qualities becomes clearer.