By Mark A. Taylor
We were talking about truth and grace.
It was toward the end of a lively conversation during our first blogtalkradio program, Beyond the Standard; this episode was about how to influence life change. George Ross, Tim Harlow, and Brian Mavis discussed the challenges of standing for the truth while standing with the sinner. How do we love and listen to people, leading them to the truth without hitting them over the head with it?
Brian told about a friend of his with “grace” and “truth” tattoos, one on each wrist. “Since I’m right-handed, ‘grace’ is on my right wrist,” the friend told him. “That way I’m always leading with grace.”
I hope I never forget that picture. Lead with grace when a neighbor annoys me. Lead with grace when someone close disappoints me. Lead with grace when my wife can’t understand me. Lead with grace when a fellow church member approaches me with everything but grace.
Of course it’s easy to overemphasize one of these approaches over the other. Brian’s friend reminds us that we need both hands, and some of our best or most difficult work is done when the two work together.
Bob Russell’s challenge rings true: “These days we shout grace and whisper repentance.” It’s a difficult dance to accept a person without agreeing with his lifestyle or choices or conclusions.
But all of us have seen the mean-spirited pursuit of truth by Christians whose approach is a put-off. Many of us have been stung by preaching or teaching or idle talk that spoke the truth in anger or hostility or criticism—but not in love.
After the program, Brian e-mailed me a quote from Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor. He had come across this paragraph that very morning:
In reading Barth, I realized that for most of my life the people I had been living with and who had taught me had been primarily interested in getting the truth of the gospel and the Bible right, explaining it and defending it. (My parents were blessed exceptions to all this.) Barth didn’t have much interest in that. He was a witness (a favorite word of his). He was calling attention to the lived quality of the Christian life, the narrative of the Bible, the good news of the gospel. Listening to God as God reveals himself in Christ and the Bible and preaching. Not taking the Christian life into a laboratory and dissecting it to figure out what makes it tick, but entering into God’s action of creation and salvation that is going on all around us and all the time and participating in it. Barth wasn’t indifferent to “getting it right,” but his passion was in “getting it lived.”
Ah, what an impact our churches have when they make “getting it lived” the natural and necessary consequence of “getting it right.” I’m glad I was able to talk with three leaders putting the emphasis on both.
You can listen to Beyond the Standard on blogtalkradio every month. Here are the details.