Grace and Truth
Jesus is described in John 1 as being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). As believers, we are to bear the image of Christ. A balance of both grace and truth is sometimes difficult to achieve in practice, however. People that lean more toward grace can sometimes be more tolerant than the biblical standard, while those who tend toward truth can be harsh if they’re not careful.
Revelation 2 provides an example of a church that became too tolerant. The church at Thyatira is the only one Jesus praises for their love but unfortunately they also accommodated an evil woman:
Revelation 2:18-21 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: 19 ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.'”
In contrast, the scribes and Pharisees that bring the adulterous woman to Jesus (John 8) are proud of their righteousness and severe in their judgement. They remind Jesus that “in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.”
Leviticus 20:10 If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Deuteronomy 22:22 If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.
Those who trust in their own righteousness (like the scribes and Pharisees) often also have contempt for others that don’t measure up. Yet Jesus rejects people who come to Him on the basis of their own self-righteousness and accepts those who come to him with nothing to offer. Jesus illustrates this in Luke 18 with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
Luke 18:9-14 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
When we look to judge another, we first need to deal with the sin in our own life. It is hypocrisy – wearing a mask – if we refuse to examine our own sin while condemning someone else’s.
Matthew 7:1-4 Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
It is dangerous to claim to be sinless and it is unwise to disagree with God on what He defines as sin. If God says something is sin and we say otherwise (“I was born this way”…”It’s okay because we love each other”, etc.) then we are making God a liar.
1 John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
After Jesus challenges the adulterous woman’s accusers to step up and cast the first stone at her – if they are without sin – they all turn and walk away. The woman’s accusers depart and Jesus does not condemn her either. He shows her grace. But Jesus is both grace and truth; God is loving and God is just; someone still needs to pay the price. The woman’s sin was deserving of execution but instead of receiving the punishment herself, the innocent Christ is executed in her place. In her place and in the place of the whole world, for He is the propitiation (payment) for our sins, and He is our Advocate before God in heaven:
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.