Lael Caesar

is an associate editor of Adventist Review.

​Grace and Truth

Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). He was the law’s magnifier and our prodigal lover. We love the world so much that we sacrifice our principles to it. He loved the world so much that He sacrificed His life to restore us all to Eden’s flawless integrations of natural and moral order. We strive so earnestly after truth that we end up “as devoid ofthe dew of grace as the hills of Gilboawere destitute ofrain.”1 But He was loved for the grace of His lips even as the law of truth was ever in His mouth (Prov. 22:11; Mal. 2:6). Compassion for the multitudes constrained Him (Matt. 9:36) while inflexible principle guided Him. Grace and truth come, together, in Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

Competing Lilliputian versions of morality pit nanny state control against Libertarian freedom as if universal obedience is incompatible with universal love, and caring for everyone is the enemy of anyone. But for Jesus, full of grace and truth, adherence to truth is grace at work. Love breeds commandment keeping, and obedience sustains love (John 14:15; 15:10). In Jesus, and for those who are in Him, there is no dichotomy: “Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10).2

One woman, despised as earth’s scum, so adored the ground on which Jesus walked that she crashed a snooty party to pour out on Him her thanks for His overflowing grace, bearing snobs’ scorn to kiss the feet that trod that ground (Luke 7:36-38).

The snobs, her despisers, of the party of truth, responded with indignant holiness, castigating His fellowship with society’s dregs and doubting His prophetic claims (verse 39). These standard bearers of righteousness had already earned multiple credits as its pallbearers. Lengths of prayers (Mark 12:40), titles of godliness (Matt. 23:8), and tithe of condiments and extractives (see verse 23) united with their zeal to make converts. Driven over land and sea to radicalize new recruits to their faith, they turned them into monsters twice the children of hell as they themselves (Matt. 23:15).

Jesus, full of grace and truth, loved them all. The yuppie one percenter that wanted all he had and heaven too belonged to their righteous, commandment-keeping party (Matt. 19:16-20). Jesus loved this big-shot guy (Mark 10:21). He felt heartbreak over this decent man who wanted to do right. Come join Me, His eyes pleaded. The yuppie couldn’t stand Jesus’ eyes. He went away crying inside (Matt. 19:22). He cried and walked away from grace. He couldn’t stop being a magnate for long enough to truly love. He was fairly good at truth. Impressively, he was both young and obedient. But grace and truth was too much.

Evidently the difference that matters is neither between age and youth, nor between grace and truth. Every tomorrow, today’s upstarts become despairing parents mourning over new generational rebellions. Our theological disputes, too—over love and obedience, faith and works of law, grace and truth—will founder tomorrow. We shall triumph together over that diminished spiritual integrity that obsesses with the elephant’s ears to define the beast as a sheet; or with its leg that defines it as a tree.

Some day soon, God grant, when grace has done its work, we shall learn to live the difference Jesus makes. And what is that difference? Jesus was full of grace and truth.

  1. Ellen G. White, Life Sketches (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 325.
  2. Except otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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