John 1:14 states, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
This is one of the most powerful verses that speaks to the essence of Christmas…that Jesus took on flesh and lived among us. The theological term for this is incarnation. The first part of John 1:14 tells us that Jesus came to us; the second part tells us how He came to us. It says that Jesus came “full of grace and truth.” Jesus came to give us two things we really need: grace and truth. The truth is that we need both truth and grace. Our culture seems to stress grace/love, but we need it to be balanced with truth. Jesus came to show us that God is both full of truth and grace.
Now, it’s not difficult for me to grasp that God is full of truth. That wasn’t difficult for many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day to understand. But God is also full of grace. And the truth is, grace is difficult for us to grasp. How could Jesus love those who hated Him? How could He love His enemies? How could God save sinners? How could God save a wretch like me? It’s hard to imagine that Jesus came to the world, not to condemn us, but to save us.
So, Jesus was the perfect expression of truth. And He was the perfect expression of grace. AND He was the perfect expression of grace AND truth together. Jesus—the perfect balance of conviction (truth) and compassion (grace). And He had to deal with both all-truth people (Pharisees) and all-grace people (Saducees). Often, we as Christians lean to one side or the other. Fundamentalists lean toward truth (sometimes with little grace). Liberals leans toward grace, love and acceptance (sometimes with little truth).
We need both grace and truth. Grace without truth is condoning. Truth without grace is condemning. So we should look to Jesus’ example of balance between grace and truth. Now admittedly, that is very difficult. And at times it’s confusing to know how to strike that balance. But let me mention a few things that might help us live out that balance.
1. Remember to be a “both/and” person (be full of grace and truth). Don’t be an “either/or” kind of person. Go back and read the four gospels, and see how Jesus was a both/and person. He could be very gracious and accepting; and He could be very strong and demanding. We should follow the Apostle Paul’s command to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
2. Remember that Jesus was most gracious to the lost and most harsh on the religious. Don’t confuse the two. Don’t expect lost people to act like saved. But do expect saved people to live like they’re saved!
3. Remember that the cross is an offense, but Christians don’t have to be offensive. Colossians 4:5-6 tells us, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders…Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Be firm in your convictions; be free in your compassion. Don’t apologize for the truth. Don’t refuse to share it. Don’t try to be “religiously correct.” But be sensitive to how you share and when you share. Stand up for what’s right but do it in the right way (which is gracious).
In other words, as one author said, we are to be a “velvet-covered brick.”
This Christmas, remember that Jesus came and took on flesh. And He came full of grace and truth. May we follow His example!