I recently read The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated by James Emery White, who serves as the pastor of a large church in Charlotte, NC. Meanwhile, a pastor in Montgomery County recently cited a statistic that 6 of 10 people who live in our county are “nones,” i.e. they have no religious affiliation. If this statistic is accurate, then we are going to have to grow in our understanding of how to bear witness to Christ among neighbors who have no idea who Jesus really is, or why they should care about the church. Dr. White observes that the Jesus we meet in John’s Gospel came bringing both grace and truth, and we need to bring both messages as well.
John 1:14 says: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. A few verses later we read: And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
If we want the full embodiment of both grace and truth, we must look to Jesus. The grace and truth that Jesus taught and lived were attractive to those who encountered it. Jesus accepted the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) and the woman caught in adultery (John 8). In other words, they received his grace. But at the same time, he confronted both of these women with the truth about their lives: the one woman had 5 husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband; the other woman was invited to “go and sin no more” after she was released without condemnation by Jesus. White suggests that all of Jesus’ stories are “grace and truth” stories. Let’s put that claim to the test. Read the stories of Jesus in all 4 of the Gospels, and see how Jesus weaves grace and truth together. He challenges people without compromise, and yet somehow people want to be around him relationally.
The temptation, of course, is to go too far in one direction or the other. Some are so committed to grace that they fail to stand for truth; others, on the other hand, are so concerned with standing for truth that they fail to display grace.
If we have received grace and truth from Jesus, let’s share it with others, including the religiously unaffiliated who live near us in Montgomery County. Let’s strive to be like Jesus, speaking both grace and truth, and living gracious and truthful lives as well. This will not make us popular with everyone. Many of the religious leaders were less than pleased with Jesus, but those who were sick with the disease of sin came to Jesus to experience healing. May we gain a hearing as well as we maintain a balance between grace and truth.
Bill Sutherland