Although I’m sure you already know the difference, if you were to look up these two words in the dictionary you would certainly be able to distinguish the two. But just in case you don’t know it and don’t want to look it up, there is a huge difference between duplicity and paradox. Duplicity, or double talk, is defined as “contradictory doubleness of thought, speech, or action”; while paradox is “that which is made up of two opposite things that seem impossible but is actually true or is in fact possible.”
Jesus’ teaching is filled with paradox. But it is not filled with duplicity!
In church circles I’ve been in, there has sometimes been a subtle but apparent divide among disciples of Christ: there are the truth-speakers and there are the grace-givers. While the reality remains that living a life completely full of grace and completely full of truth is something only attainable through the Spirit, we must not settle for less than wholeness in this area of our lives. If we tend to one side or the other, it would be so much easier to chalk it up to “the way I am.” We may not verbalize it, but we’ve come to believe that grace and truth can not genuinely and perfectly coexist in the same person nor can these two be exhibited at the exact same time. Based on personal conversations – lots of them – with fellow sojourners, this necessary tension is so humanly impossible to live out that many give up. We become so conflicted that we settle into the belief that we must make a choice: emphasize either grace through mercy and gentleness, or truth through speaking obedience and righteousness.
I’m so thankful that John gave us insight into living the grace/truth life: “Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw His glory – the glory of the One and Only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. For we have all received from His fullness one gracious gift after another. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.”
I’ve heard people say something like “now is the time for truth” or “they need to be shown grace right now” … I’m certain I’ve said it myself. But what I continue to learn is that we all need grace and truth all the time. I don’t think there is ever a time for them to be separated! Never ever.I always benefit from Randy Alcorn’s writing. In his wonderful book The Grace and Truth Paradox he says:
“Truth-oriented Christians who address abortion and homosexuality without grace are dead wrong. Grace-oriented Christians who assume every attempt to speak out against these comes from people who know nothing of grace, are equally wrong.
Since Christ is full of both, we dare not choose truth over grace, or grace over truth . . . It’s not about earrings, tattoos, clothing styles, drinking wine, smoking cigars or playing cards. It’s about justice, righteousness, love, and mercy. It’s about grace and truth. The big themes, not the little ones. Why should we have to choose between conservativism’s emphasis on truth and liberalism’s emphasis on grace? Why can’t we oppose injustice to minorities and to the unborn? Why can’t we oppose greedy ruination of the environment and extreme anti-industry New Age environmentalism? Why can’t we affirm the biblical right to the ownership of property (“thou shalt not steal”) and emphasize God’s call to his people to voluntarily share their wealth with the needy? Why can’t we uphold God’s condemnation of sexual immorality, including homosexual practices, and reach out in love and compassion to those trapped in this lifestyle and dying from AIDS?
We cannot do these things if we are first and foremost either liberals or conservatives. We can do these things only if we are first and foremost followers of Christ . . . who is full of grace and truth.”
Teaching and sharing grace can be risky. I love how several difference authors have said it: The grace of God is scandalous! And because they just would not accept the One who embodied both, the Jewish leaders couldn’t handle it. They couldn’t accept the paradox and they loved to play word games with the truths of God. So what they could not reconcile, they rejected. And their rejection secured their judgment. Paul said in Romans 3:8, referring to those who had accused him of speaking scandalous lies about grace (“as some people slanderously charge us with saying”), that their “condemnation is just.”
Martin Luther said “the devil doesn’t care which side of the horse we fall off of – as long as we don’t stay in the saddle. We need to ride the horse with one foot in the stirrup of truth, the other in the stirrup of grace.” That’s so good! Dismissing one or the other at any point, is dismissing the reality of who Christ is and desires to be in us.
Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, the One perfectly full of all grace and all truth. The One who desires us to live in that same fullness. “That God is omniscient means that He has seen me at my worst and still loved me (grace). That He’s omnipotent means He has the power to transform me (truth).”