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Balancing Grace & Truth: a Meditation

Balancing Grace & Truth: a Meditation

Recently I read a devotional posted on Aslan Roars  ( ) In the devotion it was mentioned that some think there must be a "balance" between "Grace" and "Truth". One example of this is Jesus cleansing the Temple. (Mark 11:15-19; John 2:13-22) The devotion author (Aslan) explains why this is, at best, incomplete. I had not heard this idea before, so I've been meditating on it. 

In English "grace" sounds in some ways like a ballet dancer. We may be thinking God does things in an elegant and beautiful style. But that is not what the Bible means by "grace". The word, in Greek, is  "χάρις".  Using Google to translate "χάρις" into English I found that it is somewhat similar to the English word "grace". There is the idea of "God's merciful grace". Some translations use "kindness". I get the idea of "Mercy"; but also, the idea of something "pleasant". Maybe even "enjoyable". 

When Jesus "cleansed" the Temple he did something that may seem contrary to the idea of Jesus as kind, loving, gentle, compassionate and, most especially, meek. We see him as an angry, fierce warrior. He's got a whip and his is driving the corrupt money-changers out of the Temple. This is not the image we like to use for the "Lamb of God". Here we see him as a roaring lion, not a little lamb.  

Jesus, in cleansing the Temple, could have used fire, water,  a battalion of angels, or some other means. Instead, Jesus was merciful in his method of cleansing. He chose to use simple human effort: his only weapon was a whip. He must have blasted through like a tornado. The thieving money-changers ran away. Obviously they did not consider Jesus' actions as merciful or pleasant. Tables overturned, animals set free, coins scattered all around: it must have been an incredible sight. And while the money-changers may not have felt this a "pleasant" event, the alternative, what Jesus could have done, would have been much, much worse for them. As it was, the Temple Guard never showed up. Perhaps it was done quickly? Maybe they did not know what was happening until it was too late? Regardless, they were not there, so no chance for confrontation leading to riot. More "Grace"?

It was a symbolic act for, surely, the money-changers quickly restored the market so the people could "properly offer sacrifices" in the temple. 

So, even though the money-changers may not agree, Jesus did employ Grace and Mercy. However, he did not "balance" them with Truth. Instead, he justified his actions with Truth: the Temple was created as a place of worship yet they had made it a "den of thieves". He did not, out of Grace and Mercy, let some of the thieving continue. In his wrath, Jesus destroyed the place. As they surveyed the damage I wonder if any of them realized just how close to death they were? They could have been swept up and tossed into Hell at that moment. Instead only the material objects, the instruments of deceit, were damaged. Now one might say that Jesus, without Grace, using unbalanced Truth, would have tossed the lot of them into Hell. But that is a misunderstanding of Truth. That was not Jesus' mission. He came to us as the means of forgiveness and redemption, not to use force to establish the Kingdom. In his humanity he saw a desecration of the Temple, his Father's House. He could not ignore that. Yet the truth of who he is kept him from using force to establish His Kingdom. 

And so I agree with Aslan’s implication that saying there should be a balance between Grace and Truth is at best, incomplete. As I ponder the Gospels I can only think of one thing Jesus did that, in a way, was a balance of Grace and Truth. And I’m not sure that it was a “balance”; it may have been a unification, as all of his signs, healings and miracles unified Grace and Truth: When he healed someone he was using the Grace and Mercy of the healing to witness to the Truth. Same with walking on water, turning water into wine, feeding thousands; even in Gethsemane the healing Malchus' ear that Peter had cut off was a witness to Truth. It symbolized His Mission: healing rather than armed conflict. And the Mercy displayed by that healing was (probably) not so much for Malchus as for Peter: no one could prove what Peter had done because the man still had both ears. Peter goes on to deny Jesus and thus learn exactly who he, Peter, is: the depth of his Sin and the incredible capacity of Jesus' Love and Mercy. And so Peter begins to understand Truth. 

So, when Pilate asks, "What is truth?" He is asking the wrong question. He knows the meaning of the word. He just thinks that truth is relative: the winner, or the emperor, or even he, Pilate, has the power to decide and make something true. And that gives us a hint as to why some might think there is a "balance" between Truth and Grace. In his ‘trial’ before Pilate, Jesus was not performing any sign or wonder. This was a much different situation. Pilate, attempting to decide the "truth" of what is to be done with Jesus, has no concept of Grace. He decides what will be true based on what he thinks the Emperor would want. His understanding of "truth" is not balanced or tempered with Grace. His wife is telling him that any decision he makes will be the wrong one. And all four Gospels witness to the Truth that the control of the situation is not with Pilate, it is with Jesus. In this situation Jesus, using the elegance of Grace balanced by the power of Truth, controls the situation. The die has been cast: Jesus is obedient to His Father. Pilate is still free to choose. Instead, he "washes his hands" in pretending that he cannot be held responsible for the outcome.   

The truth that needs balance is human truth.

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