Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Who shall stay in his holy place?
Only those who have clean hands and pure hearts
So give us clean hands and pure hearts
You are our desire
- Travis Greene, Here For You
The truth is defined as that which conforms to reality. However, we are all familiar with entire systems which resist that conformation. Stories about fake news and the denial of basic facts are now standard, with dangerous and deadly consequences. We have become what some say is a “post-truth culture,” our norms including hazardous claims with little accountability. God’s Word is the Truth that shows us the reality about our faults and offers perspective for much needed course correction.
Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works—this person will be blessed in what he does. (James 2:23-25)
God’s word is like a mirror we look at in the morning to make necessary adjustments. It shows us who are and how we need to change. We are grateful for mirrors because they allow us to make the changes we need to be at our best. God also tells us the truth. But just like grace, truth is most potently experienced and expressed in community. After detailing how Christians should give grace to each other, Paul gives them an additional instruction about truth:
Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)
God has designed us to speak the truth to each other so that we become living mirrors, helping each other conform to the image of Christ. But the problem is that in the Church we tend to emphasize truth without grace.
Truth without grace kills. tweet
Rebuking people with truth, but without relationship or compassion, doesn’t mature us or others because it produces shame and guilt. Many of us naturally try to earn approval through our actions and image. Attempting to prove oneself through moral codes is legalism, and when a community commits to such an error, they become judgmental. Truth without grace is judgment. “Dragging” someone with the truth while leaving out grace or relationship brings shame, fear, and anger. It contributes to a violent environment where scriptures are weaponized to change behavior. Truth without grace kills the soul’s growth.
Grace and truth together, like tea leaves and hot water, allow for something new entirely. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explains how this combination works in community:
Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into
Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16)
The combination of “speaking the truth in love” reveals how we grow in community. Paul breaks down that “when each part is working properly,” the body “builds itself up”. Paul presents all three essentials here; grace, truth, and community. Earlier in this passage, Paul makes the bold declaration that we need each other to grow. Spiritual growth cannot happen in isolation. We develop alongside others in the same way a child matures with the involvement and nurturing of others. We are to be each other’s mirrors. But how?
Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
God knows that we all have been “overtaken” by wrongdoing and needed grace and truth so we could be restored. They are common to all of us; the temptation of anger, greed, theft, deception and sexual sin are universal. We can be overtaken by any one of these wrongdoings, quickly finding ourselves in desperate need of restoration.We need others to surround us gently, with grace and truth in the context of relationship so we can grow.
When we respond to grace and truth in relationships, we leave room for others to know us. Real intimacy always comes with grace and truth in the context of a community–which is what Bridge Church means by our mission of Growing With Family. When I accept grace and truth, I no longer need to hide who I am from others or myself. Immense spiritual growth happens in the context of relationships.
- How have you experienced God’s Word as a mirror reflecting your inner self?
- What are some ways being judgemental (truth without grace) is harmful?
- Why is it so important to experience grace and truth in community?
- Who may need to experience more truth or grace from you?
Suggested Worship Meditation: Lisa McClendon – Grace, Grace, Grace