What should the world see when it looks at us? It should see Jesus Christ. Not a list of man-made regulations under which to bury Him, and not something approximating Oprah at a rave party.
Our actions and our speech are always pointing somewhere. Either we are saying and doing things that align us with Christ or with the world.
Here’s something to think about that next time you head to the tattoo parlour. Is what you are doing or saying reflective of Jesus Christ and His character, or is it more in alignment with Britney Spears?
What’s driving the impulse?
Moving on, what does it mean then, to imitate Jesus? What does being Christlike actually look like?
John boils it down for us nicely. It means to be full of only two things: 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)
Everything we do can and should be measured by the test of grace and truth. To be Christ-like means living by grace and truth and extending both to others.
Instead of this world’s alternating rage and bitterness, we offer grace. Instead of this world’s relativism and deception, we offer truth.
If we minimise grace the world sees no hope for salvation. If we minimise truth, the world sees no need for salvation. To show the world Jesus, we must offer full-orbed, unabridged truth and grace, magnifying both and never downsizing or apologising for either.
If we offend everybody, perhaps it’s because we’ve taken up the truth without grace. If we offend nobody, perhaps it’s because we’ve watered down the truth in the name of grace.
The grace question: Sinners would rip open a roof and lower themselves in to get to Jesus. Why did sinners want to be around Jesus, but don’t want to be around us?
The truth question: People wanted Jesus dead because of the things He said. Why did sinners crucify Jesus, but have no problem with us?
Truth without grace breeds a self-righteousness and a legalism that poisons the church and pushes the world away from Christ. Grace without truth breeds moral indifference and keeps people from seeing their need for Christ.
Truth is quick to post warning signs and guardrails, yet it fails to empower people to drive safely and avoid plunging off the cliff. It also fails to help them when they crash.
Grace is quick to post ambulances and paramedics at the bottom of the cliff. But without truth, it fails to post warning signs and build guardrails and therefore encourages the very self-destruction it attempts to heal.
Grace without truth deceives people, and ceases to be grace. Truth without grace crushes people, and ceases to be truth. Randy Alcorn.
Truth never violates grace. It is a merciful signpost to restitution with God. Likewise, grace never ignores truth. It points to the only solution for our broken world: The death and resurrection of Jesus.
Truth calls us upward to Christ and points out the impossible distance. Grace satisfies truths’ demands by opening the door and bridging the gap.
And in imitating Christ, you and I are called to play an even hand of both grace and truth.
Where grace is lacking, we can look more closely at the kindness we see in Jesus and aim to season our speech with the things that build others up.
If truth is lacking, we can seek God for the courage to say the hard things that will lead others to lean more heavily on the grace we see in Jesus.
Acknowledgement, The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn