Remind Me What Grace Is

Last week, Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback church, gave a very controversial answer in an interview with CBS This Morning. Like most evangelical leaders touting the TV circuits, he was questioned about his views on same-sex marriage. While you may agree or disagree (strongly or mildly) with his answer, he made a distinction that is worthy of taking a note of.

Co-host Charlie Rose was discussing the answer when he said, “You have to be tolerant of other people’s views.”

“The problem is that ‘tolerant’ has changed its meaning,” Warren responded. “Tolerant used to mean: I may disagree with you completely, but I’m going to treat you with respect. That’s what tolerant means.

‘Today, to some people, tolerant means you must approve of everything I do,” he continued. “That’s not tolerance. That’s approval.”

Hmmm. Interesting.

I want desperately to agree with him. For that to be one of those BAMN! tweets I send out. But before I can do that, I have to examine my “society” (church circles) and see if we’ve ‘redefined” words with disastrous consequences. And in doing so, I was reminded of how we use the word “grace.” And I found we are guilty. Horribly guilty.

There is a large segment of (especially the evangelical white church) that believes that there are grace people and there are truth people. And that you either lean to one side or the other. They believe that if you lean too much towards grace, you’ll fall into license. If you lean too hard on truth, you’ll become legalistic. (see diagram below)


I saw this diagram last year while in a counseling class. It made a lot of sense. I actually thought, “yeah, that looks about right.”

But it’s wrong. It’s very, very wrong. And it’s wrong because it, in and of itself, contains lies.

John 1:14 tells us that Jesus was full of “grace and truth.” He couldn’t stop being one to be the other. It’s not like Jesus was “truth” when he turned over the money changer tables and “grace” when dealing with the adulterous woman. He is God. God can’t stop being one thing to be another. He is always good. He is always omnipotent. He is always truth. He is always full of grace.

So, if we talk about Christians, the scale is really Christ fills us, or he doesn’t. We really are legalistic jerks and rebellious apathetic fools — OR — He fills us. And since He is truth and grace, then we too become both.

See, to say one is to imply the second is already there. I’m reminded that Galatians 5 says  “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

I pray for a church that knows and displays grace — true grace. A grace that doesn’t suspend the law, but lovingly stands in the gap by bringing Jesus in. Because, well, He makes all things beautiful. And for the sake of this blog, defined properly.