Friday, May 16, 2008

Struggling to Balance Grace and Truth

As my good friend Alex Kirk has said, I struggle to believe grace and live in the reality of the Father’s love – it just doesn’t come naturally to me. I know it theologically, but I don’t always feel it to be true. Rules and laws make much more sense to me, defined and orderly. Standards are comforting and measurable. Yet I also have known and experienced the freedom that only grace can give.

I think that standards are good. I think that there are right and wrong ways to live in this world. But lately I have struggled to give grace when others don’t match up with my expectations and ideals of what is right and wrong. I feel that the Law response is the first to my heart and lips, and I sense that there is a more gracious way to respond to the world. I have tasted the freedom of living in grace, and right now I’m tasting the bitterness of ungraciousness.

My step-mother told me recently, “You’ve really set the standard for [our family], Marshall.” She meant it as a compliment, an encouragement that I strive to live out the convictions of my soul. But the truth of it is, lately I feel more like a standard to be met than a conduit of life that leads to transformation.

I wrestle and wonder. There are things that are clear in Scripture, things that are right and wrong, and each day people that I know and love run afoul of those. And in many cases I struggle to extend grace, because there is a subtle thought in me that says, “If you extend grace, they will think it’s OK to do wrong.” I imagine that, in my heart of hearts, I apply that standard just as strenuously to my own failings.

This is so sad and frustrating for me, because I have come so far over the years in understanding how deeply I am loved by the Father, and the more deeply I know that in my own heart, the more I know it to be true of others. And as I look at others with transformed eyes, it woos their hearts to obedience, the kindness of the Lord leading to repentance. Lately I’ve been looking with ungracious eyes, splinters and logs.

I’m not saying that grace means we tell everyone that everything that they do is OK. I’m not saying that there is no place for truth. I’m just saying that I believe there is a gracious response of the Holy Spirit that speaks the truth in love. I believe that there is a state of heart that calls people on their sin from a position of love, and there is a state of heart that does it because it’s all about me. See, the problem with sin is not that it’s wrong. The problem with sin is that it is a cheap and destructive counterfeit to the love and life of God, and it breeds more destructiveness and alienation from God and from others. I believe that Jesus dealt with sin because He loved God and He loved people, not because He just wanted people to live the right way. There’s more to life than getting things right.


Dan said...

This is Big D Stott reading your blog for probably the second time ever. I got two words for you concerning your most recent post; "Preech it."

Chris Lewis said...

Great thoughts, real struggles. The only one whom I know who has this one down is "the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Thanks for your unique expression of Him as he does His thing in and through you, bro.

B-U-R-L-Y said...

You said that it was said of you that "'You’ve really set the standard for [our family], Marshall.' She meant it as a compliment, an encouragement that I strive to live out the convictions of my soul. But the truth of it is, lately I feel more like a standard to be met than a conduit of life that leads to transformation." You should remember, though, that externally you may simply appear to be a moral person. We can't visibly see when a person is living according to a "moral performance narrative" (to steal the language of Tim Keller) or a "grace narrative". That's where it's important to live the gospel of grace and speak the gospel of grace. It's the Holy Spirit's work to make it hit home, but it is your pleasure, I'm sure, to share how the grace performance narrative has drastically impacted and tranformed (and is transforming) your life. In other words, if a person is themselves going to simply compare their outward life to you, they may only see YOU as a standard to live up to. If they see how you live your life AND the message of grace you carry with you - eventually maybe they'll get it. And if you continue preaching it to others - you'll be continally preaching to yourself. I say all this mainly because I have the same struggle.

B-U-R-L-Y said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

God says that if we ask for wisdom, we will receive wisdom. Ask that the truth of the scripture is revealed to you as you study it.
I also have high standards and find myself operating in the law sometimes more than grace. I have a strong sense of right and wrong and expect others to operate the same.