Compass Bearings: Grace and Truth

In John 1:14 we read that Jesus came, full of grace and truth. That balance can be elusive for his followers, but it is who we are at our best as imitators of Christ.

As Henry Cloud reminds us in his book Changes That Heal, there is a fruitful tension between grace and truth. Truth gives solidity to reality; it provides bearings and a frame of reference. Grace is relationship-oriented, renewing companionship in the navigation of truth. They are complementary, not contradictory.

The challenge with truth is it can be a tad unyielding. You can’t get reality to change its mind. No matter how hard you might want to convince gravity to stop when the plate is in midair, gravity will pull it to the ground. And so truth can produce pain when we collide with it—especially when the truth collision exposes our own shortcomings.

Grace is conferred from outside of us to us. It is restorative and relationship-oriented, first with God and also for the good of our relationship with others, as we seek to align with truth anew.

This poem by Darrelyn L. Tutt expresses the constructive interplay well.

Truth and Grace

Two voices spoke from single face:
one named Truth, the other Grace.
Truth was stern, direct and strong,
Truth declared the right from wrong.

Truth proclaimed the pure and right,
Truth distinguished dark from light.
Everything Truth spoke was true;
Truth had perfect point of view.

Overwhelmed by all Truth said,
I sat, I wept, and bowed my head;
and then in depths of great despair,
another spoke to me with care.

The name behind the voice was Grace;
Grace wiped the tears upon my face,

and gently did Grace speak my name,
and comfort weary broken frame.

“I’ve come prepared to comfort you;
Truth has come…but I have too.
Linked and joined as one we go;
our goal to aid and make to grow.

Wherever Truth should be declared,
Grace shall also be prepared.
Both are needed, both are good,
and when combined be as they should.

Wise in heart and wise in way,
will heed and hear what both will say.”
And Christ, himself, the single face,
behind the voice of truth and grace.

Grace without truth misleads, which is not very loving. Truth without grace only disheartens, which is not very loving either. So let’s keep imitating Jesus who lovingly helps us see truth and experience grace.

“Truth and Grace” reprinted by permission of Darrelyn L. Tutt.

About the Author

  • C. John Weborg

    C. John Weborg is professor emeritus of theology at North Park Theological Seminary. A longtime columnist for the Companion, he handwrites his columns and is a train enthusiast. He lives in Princeton, Illinois, where he attends the Covenant church there.

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