On Grace, truth, & not being a jerk

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I recently said this on Twitter and Facebook:

You’re better off maintaining a friendship than winning a theological argument.

Apparently, that’s something that’ll stir people up. :)

Some people view that statement as an attempt to comprise the truth. Let it be known: that was never my intent.

photo credit: Creative Commons user Sepehr Ehsani

I want to balance grace and truth. And I think that means a few things.

How to balance grace & truth

 1. Don’t be a jerk. Even if the truth you espouse is rooted in the Bible.

2. Know what’s theologically vital and what’s not. The non-vital truths should be held with an open hand. The vital truths should not be held in a fist ready to sock someone in the gut with, though.

3. Know who you’re talking to. “Exegeting” your audience is key. Seminary students are not the same audience as the barista behind the bar at your local coffee shop.

4. Stand for truth. Don’t compromise. Balancing doesn’t mean you have to callous your convictions.

5. Be patient with people. How long did it take you to arrive on the theological camp where you now reside?

6. Be humble. Even when you know you’re right.

7. Remember that destroying a relationship leaves no chance of redemption. I’m not downplaying God’s sovereignty here…if God wants to save them, we can’t stop him. Are there times when people part ways and don’t do ministry together? Sure. Are there times when beliefs cause us to head in different directions? You bet. But destroying a relationship isn’t wise or redemptive.

Balance. Fight hard for both grace and truth.

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. – John 1:14, emphasis mine


Which do you tend to gravitate more towards: grace or truth?

 * photo credit: Creative Commons user Sepehr Ehsani


Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.jrforasteros.com JR. Forasteros

    Great words Ben!

    I missed all the fighting earlier… too bad, I guess 😉

    I had to learn a painful lesson once: God calls the Church to be unified, not right. Jesus never says They will know you are my disciples by your proclamations of Truth. He says we are to love one another, and that love is how the world knows we belong to Jesus.

    Of course that doesn’t mean we let everything in and have no standards. The New Testament is clear about that. But Jesus’ new commandment to Love One Another certainly ought to regulate how we engage in conflict. As Jesus said, Mercy trumps judgment. Ever time.

    The bottom line is that Jesus is Truth. Not me. And I’m pretty sure if God needs my help being the Holy Spirit, he’ll let me know. I’m still waiting by the phone…

    All that to say, thanks for the reminder again. Very timely.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      You should’ve gotten in the mix with us, JR!

      Great wisdom here. You’re so on point…Jesus is the one who changes hearts, not us.

    • Josh

      Well put (both of you).
      I lean towards grace. Pressure’s off in my opinion. I can trust the Holy Spirit to the act of changing hearts and minds, either theirs, mine, or both!

  • http://www.mhmcintyre.us Mark McIntyre

    Having a personality somewhat like a golden retriever who likes just about everyone, I gravitate toward grace.

    I like your point though. While we have to stand for the truth, we need to allow people to accept it in their own time frame. I always remember the ditty that someone told me years ago.

    “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Ha! That’s funny, Mark. And true.

  • http://www.noelbagwell.com/ Noel Bagwell

    This came up in our small group, this past Tuesday. I think, in some way or another, we hit on each of the points you  made above. Good stuff.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Awesome…love to hear it, Noel!

  • Paul Canady

    I tend towards Grace. My OT professor in seminary used to always remind us that our experience of God/Church/Scripture may very well be different than someone else’s experience. It is more important to learn from each other than to think every theological ditch is worth dying in. You attract more people with honey than you do with vinegar.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      That’s a good line…you attract more people with honey than with vinegar. I think I’ll steal that one. :)

  • http://www.jrforasteros.com JR. Forasteros

    Found this N. T. Wright quote in his commentary on Galatians:

    “The balance this produces is as vital for the church today as it ever was. Often, today, when people emphasize the need for love, patience, gentleness and the like, this goes with an attitude to truth and the gospel which says that we shouldn’t stress the things we disagree on. Equally, when people are passionate for the truth of the gospel, as Paul was, they often allow that zeal to betray them into the kind of anger and even malice that are listed under ‘the works of the flesh’. Often the blend of truth and love which Paul so often urged (see, e.g., Ephesians 4.15) seems elusive in church life. Paul’s own answer to the problem would be short and clear: we need to learn to line up more effectively with the spirit.”

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  • http://www.thestoriedsoul.wordpress.com/ Arny

    2 tim. 2:22
    23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,