A responder to one of my blogs said this today in response to the blog post, “Bellowing with their Mouths” (1):
“Thank you for this reflection on Psalm 59 and how it speaks to the reality of persecution and opposition that Christians may face. I appreciate your emphasis on the importance of speaking the truth of the gospel, even if it may not always be well-received. My question is, how do you find the balance between speaking truth and showing love and grace to those who may not agree with us?”
I responded, “Anette, that is an excellent question. Let me pray about how to answer that, and I will get back with you. Thank you for your encouragement. Glory to God.”
Immediately I sensed the Holy Spirit encouraging me to do that next, only not just to her personally, but on another blog post, because I believe that is a very good question that needs to be answered to a broader audience, because it is a question that I think may cross many of our minds, at one time or another. And perhaps by examining that question here, this may help more than one person who is struggling with the same question.
So, the Scripture passage the Lord Jesus led me to is 1 John 3:16 which says,
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
And as I thought about what this one verse is saying here about love, I realized that the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ model to us how this is to be accomplished. In other words, Jesus Christ is our example of how to speak the truth and yet show love and grace to those who disagree. But it really helps to understand the meanings of these words “Love” and “Grace.”
The word “love” in Greek is “Agape.” And it means “to prefer,” and it is love which centers in moral preference. And so this typically refers to divine love which = what God prefers. So, when we love God and others with this kind of love, we are going to prefer holiness, righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, honesty, and moral purity, etc. And so we are not going to sin against God and other humans, who we claim to love, deliberately and habitually. But we are going to do to them and for them what is ultimately for their good and truly in their best interest, and not what will harm them.
And the word “grace” is God’s favor and his kindness to us. It means to share benefit, and benefit is something that is for our good, something which will be helpful and profitable (rewarding, worthwhile). And so God’s grace to us sent Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God (and God the Son) to the cross to die for us. And in his death he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). So, when he died our sins died with him so that we can now die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness (1 Peter 2:24).
For by his grace we are saved. And this:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV).
So, what does God’s grace do for us? It not only delivers us from our bondage to sin, and it no longer forgives the sins of the repentant, but it give us new lives in Christ Jesus our Lord to now be lived for the glory of God in walks of holiness and righteousness. And God’s grace trains and equips us to say, “NO!” to sin and to live godly and holy lives, and to no longer walk in sin. For he redeemed us from lives of lawlessness, and by his grace he purifies those of genuine faith in Jesus so that we would now do the works of God which he prepared for us to do (see Ephesians 2:10).
And when Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, it wasn’t just at the cross he did that. He did that the moment he first opened his mouth and declared that we are to repent of our sins, and when he said that if we are going to come after him that we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and to self), and follow (obey) him. And he did that when he said that not everyone who says to him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one DOING the will of God the Father who is in heaven.
[Matt 4:17; Matt 7:21-23; Matt 11:20-21; Matt 12:41; Matt 21:28-31; Mk 1:14-15; Lu 5:32; Lu 9:23-26; Lu 13:1-5; Lu 15:2-7; Lu 24:45-47; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 8:31-32,51; Jn 10:27-30; Jn 14:15-24; Jn 15:1-11]
So, in conclusion, the question again is, “How do you find the balance between speaking truth and showing love and grace to those who may not agree with us?”
And the answer is that speaking the truth in love – “in love” is key here – is showing love and grace to those who do not agree with us. For Jesus Christ never once compromised truth in order that others would feel loved by him or sense his grace. And that is because the truth is what sets people free from their slavery to sin, and the truth is that which gives them genuine hope of salvation from sin and eternal life with God. Lies do not do that. Lies give them a false hope of forgiveness, salvation, and heaven as home.
And showing love and grace to those who disagree with us is being willing to be hated and rejected and persecuted and falsely accused and even put to death by other humans, because we tell the truth. For those of us who truly are speaking the truth in love, and out of love for our fellow humans, do so knowing full well that other humans, even other professing Christians, will hate, despise, reject, and persecute us. And so that is the ultimate in love, to lay our lives down, even for our enemies, in hopes that they will know Christ and have eternal life in him.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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