Have you ever heard people say, “I believe in Jesus, because Jesus is all about grace and love? He was non-judgmental (unlike those nasty evangelical Christians). He overturned the Old Testament, which was all about wrath and violence, and He preached a message of acceptance and inclusion where all are welcome.”
Was Jesus about grace and love? Yes. Did He preach a message of acceptance and inclusion where all are welcome? Yes, but not without some guardrails and conditions.
Is grace unconditional? Yes, but we receive this unconditional grace in order to live within the conditions of God’s truth.
Grace is free and liberal, but its liberty does not lead to libertarianism. Grace is the key that unlocks the door to how we are called to live, but it was never intended to be a license for selfish living.
In the Gospels, Jesus appears as more than a purveyor of grace. He is also a prophet preaching truth that stings. He was kind and liberal with grace, but He didn’t preach pretty little self-help sermons to simply make people feel better about themselves.
As Johnnie Moore wrote, “His teaching was sometimes more akin to a battering ram than a Styrofoam bat” (Dirty God, 51).
Jesus’ call is to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). His way is one of losing our life in order to save it (Mark 8:35). We are to love Him more than mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even our own life (Luke 14:26). We are to be servants (Mark 10:43), who repent (Matthew 4:17), who will be hated, and who are called to endure to the end (Matthew 10:22).
These attributes of Jesus followers do not contradict grace; they are only possible through grace. Grace sustains and strengthens. It cleanses and empowers. Grace is the easy yoke and light burden of following Jesus (Matthew 11:30) that compliments the narrow gate and the hard way that leads to life (Matthew 7:14).
Rather than seeing grace and truth as two ends on a spectrum, let’s see them as two sides to the same coin. Kingdom living is impossible without grace, but grace is cheapened without kingdom living (Bonhoeffer).
I love the way Tim Keller put it in one of his podcasts: “Jesus’ way to the kingdom is a door that leads to a long road, and not a long road that leads to a door.”
I pray you enter the door of grace that leads to “a long obedience” (Peterson), and in so doing you will be filled “with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13, ESV).