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grace vs. truth and american christianity today

Lately, my social media feed has been filled with opinions about political candidates – many legitimate opinions about why certain candidates are not the right choice, given their questionable integrity.

And then I read a comment that really got to the heart of something I’ve been struggling with lately. It said something to this effect: Christians need to be careful not to post about politics because it creates division, but rather, should just commit themselves to prayer.

Division. Tolerance. Love. Truth. Grace. Judgment. Acceptance.

Buzzwords for this century.

At first glance, this advice from my friend sounds like good advice. Praying for our country is absolutely what every child of God should be doing. And maybe for some Christians – if they struggle with pride and being condescending – maybe that’s perfect advice. Some people probably need to just be quiet and only pray if they’re coming across in a way that is obnoxious and unloving to unbelievers. We are called to be salt and light, and since we are to be known by our love, it is absolutely critical how we interact with the world around us. Jesus went so far as to say that “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” 1 John 4:20-21

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

But what I believe is a much more common problem in American Christianity today – myself included – is to cling to the verses about “love” so strongly that we fail to acknowledge God’s desire for us to speak truth. We want the world to look on at our lives, and although we are flawed and far from perfect, we want them to see the peace that we have, the joy that comes from knowing Christ, and for that to be enough. And sometimes, it probably is. But much of the time? The world needs to hear truth. We also must speak. We need to love in word and deed. This is becoming increasingly difficult in the country we are living in.

I don’t want to (even begin to) minimize the suffering that Christians around the world have endured by calling it persecution in America today, but it’s moving that direction, friends. Christians are being silenced, sued, publicly mocked, and those who make statements about what God has to say about hot topics in America today are subjected to death threats, rage, and humiliation to the point that many of them end up apologizing for what God said. Heaven forbid the creator of everything, the one who died so that we could live, the one who pursues us with never ending love and patience should ever want to weigh in on how He created us to live abundant lives in relationship to each other and to Himself.

Before our very eyes, Christianity is becoming less convenient, less accepted, and a greater test of our faith.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16

So let’s unpack this. Jesus, who is the only perfect balance of grace and truth, lived a perfect, sinless life so that He could take the sins of the world upon himself in the greatest act of love the world has ever known. Friends, why would a perfect, sinless Jesus anger the people (religious and nonreligious alike) to the point of a gruesome death? We know his actions were loving; He healed people; so many people. He washed feet, he fed the hungry, he definitely loved with his actions. It was his words that angered them. It was truth. It was hearing His claims that He is God – which inevitably challenged their power, their pride, their independence, their godless lifestyles. He presented them with absolute truth; the opposite of a “whatever works for you” secular humanist philosophy.

He offended them.

Contrary to popular opinion in America today, offending someone isn’t an unforgivable sin. If truth is spoken in love, it’s not a sin at all. It is actually called love. This is hard to hear for someone like me, who wants nothing more than harmony. I’m a peacekeeper. I like people, and I like for people to like me. I love Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” But at the end of the day, whose approval is more important to me? I have to put a higher priority on either the worlds approval or Gods approval. I can’t serve two masters. I choose Gods approval.

In American Christianity today, I believe our greatest weakness is to subscribe to the convenient aspects of the gospel and ignore the others. We want to convince ourselves that the “loving” thing is to simply smile and nod while withholding the truth, when in reality the kind of love that Jesus showed us was quite the opposite. It was not at all comfortable. It was truth spoken in love, it was selfless, it was serving, it was sacrificial, it angered the religious leaders, it shook things up. It created division – people had to choose who they would serve: This world? Or God? We’ve made the word LOVE into a modern, watered down version of what it really is. We want so badly to be liked, to be tolerant, to be accepting, that we’re swirling around in a whirlpool of moral relativism. We are nervous to speak up because of the implications. 

“Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.” Psalm 15:2

In America today, sharing truth (even when it is shared from a kind and sincere heart) has become synonymous with being “judgemental.” Oh, if I had a dime for every time I have read a Christian saying something true on social media who is immediately subjected to an onslaught of angry commenters telling them “not to judge” or “you’re not perfect, so who are you to judge” or “christians are supposed to be loving, not judgmental.” Guys, I would be wealthy. But, sometimes, the most loving thing a person can possibly do is to share truth with a humble heart.

“So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.” 1 John 3:14

But please hear me. I know that a lot of Christians get this wrong. They might share the truth, but it’s not in love. Or they might be a meddler, a gossip, or a busybody. God has harsh words for these people. That kind of behavior is not from Him, and it doesn’t please Him. Again, Jesus is the only one EVER to embody both characteristics grace and truth) in a perfect balance with no sin, no manipulation, and no motives other than true, pure, perfect love.

The comfort for me in all of this is this: since the beginning of the world, Christians have been a faith-filled minority. They’ve been counter-cultural. They’ve followed Jesus, suffered for Jesus, been martyred for Him, and yet, this is not surprising to a God who knew that He would be rejected by the prideful, stubborn hearts of men. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith: the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

  • Mom - February 27, 2016 - 12:06 pm

    Truth, Heather. Good stuff, and thank you??

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