I failed. There just wasn’t any way around it. Years ago a mentor and friend invited me to teach in his place and I gladly accepted. He asked me well in advance, so I had plenty of time to prepare. Sadly, I procrastinated and let the time get away from me. When the day came for me to teach his class my mentor was present and it was clear to him, and I’m sure the rest of the class, that I had not prepared.
To be honest, it was pretty embarrassing. When the class was over I wanted to hide under a rock or simply disappear. I certainly didn’t want to face the man who had given me the opportunity, but as luck would have it I was supposed to ride home with him for lunch that day… so much for my hopes of getting away! On the ride home he confronted me about not being prepared. He was painfully honest and didn’t let me off the hook. But he loved me enough to tell me the truth even when it was painful. It was a ride home I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
That day my mentor offered me two things that allowed me to learn from my mistake. First, he told me the truth. Second, he showed me grace. When those two things are present growth can occur. It takes time, but truth and grace are necessary ingredients for personal, professional and spiritual growth. We need both if we are going to experience healthy, growing relationships with the Lord and with others.
What if my mentor had given me truth without grace? If he simply confronted me with the truth about my failure it would have been a crushing blow. I would have felt condemned by him and our relationship would have been damaged. But along with holding me accountable and telling me the truth, he also showed me tremendous grace. He still cared for me and wanted me to learn from my mistake, so he gave me another opportunity. Because of his love for the Lord and his love for me, he was willing to forgive my mistake and give me a second chance. He turned my failure into a teachable moment, and you can bet I didn’t want to repeat my mistake.
So where do grace and truth come from? Ultimately they come from Jesus Christ. He is the one “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) and “grace and truth” come through him (John 1:17). Where do you need to apply these truths to your life today? Whether you desire a closer relationship with the Lord or you are facing trouble with a friend or loved one, both truth and grace will be needed, and you have access to them in Jesus Christ. Look to him for what you need and he will surely give it. Truth without grace condemns; and grace without truth manipulates. But together they produce the growth we long to see.