We are going to encounter more and more difficult conversations as Christians these days with those who do not know Jesus.
What do you say when your coworker says they’re transitioning genders? When your cousin says they are gay? Or when a colleague passionately insists that Jesus is pro-gay? When a friend doubting the faith points out the historical and present inconsistencies in the way Christians live – alleged racism, sexism, and abuse? When the man in the seat next to you on the flight gives you several scientific proofs that destroy the Bible?
Hard conversations about Jesus and His truth are coming – are we ready for them? Or will we be blindsided?
I think a key to know how to answer hard questions about Jesus is to look at how Jesus Himself answered hard questions about Himself.
One of my favorite verses about Jesus is John 1:14:
“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.“
That’s exactly what we need for these hard conversations – the perfect amount of grace and truth. And the “perfect amount” is not a balance between the two, but an overwhelming supply of both at the same time!
These aren’t contradictory – one should naturally lead to the other. Truth tells us about a God of wrath who poured it out on His Son rather than on us – a gracious God! Therefore, we show grace. If we show grace, our grace has to be based on truth about the world, otherwise it’s just nonsense.
But how do we know how to do these both in conversation?
Thankfully, John doesn’t just make this statement and leave it there – he gives us many examples in his Gospel, as well as many more in the other three.
But my “favorite” one has to be John 4 – Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well.
GRACE: “Give me a drink.” A simple request. But one that in itself is full of grace because Jews, especially men, were not supposed to talk to Samaritans, especially women!
TRUTH/GRACE: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The truth is that He is the ultimate source of water – the grace is that He offers it to her if she just asks.
GRACE: “I have water that will never make you thirsty again!”
WOMAN: “Give me!”
HARD TRUTH: “Call your husband…”
HARD TRUTH: “Oh that’s right, you’ve had five and the one you’re with now isn’t even your husband.” Ouch!!
WOMAN: Change the subject! “You Jews worship in Jerusalem, but we Samaritans on Mount Gerizim!” This is a hard subject-change. She is trying to get the subject off of herself. This was a touchy issue between Samaritans and Jews to this day. It had both political, ethnic, and religious connotations. It would be similar to how an unsaved person might try to outflank you in conversation by throwing out scientific “disproofs” of the Bible or mentioning a horrid politician that Christians support or talking about how Christians supported slavery.
But notice what Jesus does here…He doesn’t ignore the question. He could’ve said, “That’s a moot point here – back to talking about your personal life!” No, He answers her question firmly and truthfully…
TRUTH: “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”
And yet then “spins” it back to talking about grace –
GRACE: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” In other words, this issue doesn’t matter terribly because God just wants our inside worship!
WOMAN: “When the Messiah comes…”
TRUTH: “I am he.”
What a beautiful conversation! What a combo of truth and grace without sacrificing one or the other. Study this conversation, as well as His with Nicodemus in 3, the crowds in 6, and his debates with the religious rulers in the Synoptics for more counsel from our Christ about difficult conversations.
Jesus is so gracious. Jesus is the Truth. Let us share His truth with His grace this week in every conversation!