Dear GCI Family and Friends,
Back in December we celebrated the Incarnation – God becoming man in the person of Jesus. An incredible verse that captures my imagination is John 1:14.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NRSV)
What a mysterious, fascinating concept that causes us to stop, ponder and worship.
When we dig into scripture and see the first recorded interaction of Jesus the human, we see him at age 12 interacting with the Jewish priests at the temple in Jerusalem. He’s exchanging ideas, sharing in questions and answers, connecting and relating. I’m certain that he blessed them with some truths that were new to their ears, and very likely blew their minds.
Truth most often comes in statement form – “I tell you the truth, you must be born again.” Then thinking more about John’s account of Jesus, we hear the declaration statements about who he is – “I am the resurrection and life,” “I am the Good Shepherd,” “I am the Bread of Life” and the rest of the seven of these “I am” statements that reveal the deity of Jesus.
Truth statements challenge the thinking and stir the spirit. Oftentimes they hang out there for us to think about in wonder and amazement. Jesus also taught that truth has the power to divide and be a point of contention. It can be wielded as a weapon when it is used untampered by grace.
Thinking about our personal lives and our Christian witness, are we more comfortable with stating truth than engaging in dialogue?
Not long ago, Susan and I were riding on public transportation through a sprawling urban center. A middle-aged man with his five- to six-year-old daughter got on the train. The little girl’s behavior and speech seemed to indicate symptoms of autism. The dad was quite calm and patient with her. There happened to be a lady sitting close by on the same bench seat. As we pulled into the next stop, the lady moved to get off and immediately spoke out to the father with bold, emphatic words. She said “Don’t be fearful, perfect love casts out fear. You are a child of God. You are loved and blessed. Be blessed.”
I certainly agreed with her words of truth, but her delivery seemed awkward and came across as bombastic parting words at a train stop. Why not engage the little girl and her dad during the ride?
Then there are the obnoxious words or phrases that Christians use in declaring their understanding of truth. “The Bible says it and that settles it.” Did this ever win a non-believer over to a meaningful conversation? Or point them closer to Jesus?
I recognize that I am comfortable with being direct and stating the truth. And while there is a time to be concise and direct, the more I grow in self-awareness, I see how being “full of grace” is more engaging and better at connecting with others.
What does it mean to be full of grace? Grace is about tangible, transforming love that brings about acceptance and belonging. In my experience, grace most often appears in the form of heartfelt open-ended questions and interactive conversations. Grace flows from the grace-giver, Jesus, and it starts with connecting us to himself, but it doesn’t bottleneck there. This received grace becomes extended grace, and it is about connecting, sharing, building trust, bonding, and authentic relationships. Grace is about give and take in an atmosphere of love and respect.
Jesus was the master at asking discerning, alluring questions. Who do you say that I am? What do you want me to do for you? Will you give me a drink? Do you want to get well? Etcetera.
What if we followed his example more closely and became more effective at engaging others? What if we seasoned our truth with healthy doses of grace?
In 2022 we are following the theme of “Compelled by Love.” (Compelled by Grace fits quite comfortably into this mix). We see the Holy Spirit moving us to engage and love our neighbors with greater awareness and intentionality, and this can only happen as we join Jesus by being full of grace and truth.
May our witness of the Gospel be a testimony to truth and may the grace we share build eternal relationships with new disciples. Amen!
Still growing in grace and truth,
We mourn along with our worldwide family the atrocities of war. Join us in holding the people of Ukraine and all those affected by the conflict in prayer. We ask our God of justice to bring peace and comfort. For prayer points and actions we can take to support our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, please visit the NAE website at: Pray for Ukraine | National Association of Evangelicals (nae.org)