I have a friend on Facebook who posted this today:
“I was having conversation with one of my dearest friends earlier tonight over dinner when we got on the light topic of abortion (lol). If I actually had time, I would seriously consider bringing gifts once a month to all abortion clinics. I would hand them out to the staff as well as the clients coming into the clinic. I would tell everyone who works there, and everyone on their way in to get an abortion, that they are loved and valued people without any strings attached. I would leave encouraging notes so they too could experience – if even for one moment – the love God has for them. Demonizing people NEVER makes things right in the Kingdom of God, only love can do that.”
I absolutely agree with the sentiment – as Christians we certainly want people to know God loves them, especially people far from God.
However, grace without truth is just as bad as truth without grace.
John tells us that Jesus was full of grace and truth:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17
It’s not grace or truth; it’s not grace then truth; it’s grace and truth together at the same time.
I’ll be the first to admit that it is incredibly difficult to be like Jesus and provide grace and truth together in a seamless way. Most of us gravitate toward one or the other. My friend above is a grace person; I’m a truth person. That doesn’t mean my friend doesn’t believe in the truth – she does. However, it means that their dominant feature is grace. And as for me, it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in grace; I do! But I have to REALLY work hard on the grace part when I feel compelled to share God’s truths. Jesus didn’t really have this problem, but in our fallen state we do.
Certainly, I’m not the first to call this out. Dietrich Bonhoeffer used the term “Cheap Grace” in the 1930s. Here is how one source describes it:
The term “cheap grace” can be traced back to a book written by German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937. In that book, Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Notice what is emphasized in Bonhoeffer’s definition of cheap grace and what is de-emphasized. The emphasis is on the benefits of Christianity without the costs involved; hence, the adjective cheap to describe it. (https://www.gotquestions.org/cheap-grace.html)
Like Bonhoeffer, I’ve always felt that cheap grace is very dangerous. It tells someone that God loves them without their understanding the price of that love, namely the cross that Jesus bore for their sins. When we share grace without the truth of the cross we are in essence saying that God loves you without the cross when in truth we are enemies of God in rebellion against God without that cross.
Of course, I’m not advocating that in every conversation you bang on people with the truth until they convert! That’s silly. Of course, you build relationship, trust, and friendship as you discuss these things. But if the goal is not to share grace AND truth then you’re actually only sharing part of the Gospel. And when you share only part of the Gospel you are not sharing the Gospel at all.
I love my friend’s heart. She wants marginalized people to see Christian love. I think Jesus would do the same. But I also see Jesus in the pages of scripture loving people enough to tell them to “sin no more.” In our society today, we’ve come to believe that it is more loving just to love people than to tell them the truth.
But is it really?
Is it really more loving to share love and grace with someone and leave them in their bondage to sin? Is it really move loving to care for them (give them the proverbial glass of water) while ignoring their sinful behavior which separates them from God and His blessings? Is it really more loving to share grace without truth and thus keep that person from being transformed by the Holy Spirit and becoming a new creation in Christ?
You can give out as many sandwiches, presents and coats as you want but the recipients are still going to hell if they don’t accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And just for the record, I didn’t say that, Jesus did (Mark 16:16; John 14:6, John 3:1-36, John 3:36, John 5:24, Matthew 7:21-23, John 3:16-18).
Personally, I think the most unloving thing you can do is withhold God’s truth from people.
But I will agree that it’s a lot more comfortable sharing grace rather than truth! You’ll never offend anyone or get someone upset at you if you don’t share that what they are doing is sinful and against God’s will for them. I think we all like to share love more than we like to share truth. But that is not what we are called to do. We are called to share grace and truth together, which is so much harder to pull off.
As I said above, I love my friend’s heart. It is a great reminder to me that I have to be more graceful in all that I do whether it be preaching, teaching, counseling, mentoring, serving, fellowship, friendship and even in my marriage. But I believe I would be remiss in all those roles if I did not also strive to share the truth with grace (and salt!) as well – and again, not my truth but the truth of the Word which is Jesus Christ.
Please pray for me that I can do better at this and I will pray the same for you!