Imagine yourself in the midst of controversy, reaching out for the counsel of two friends. After owning up to your responsibility, your friends respond in ways which could not be further apart. The first one says, “What’s the big deal?” The second friend says, “How dare you?” Popular thought leaders in America only acknowledge those two contrasting responses to homosexuals–permission and shame. The first is an unquestioned acceptance of gay lifestyles; the second is an unmitigated rejection of gay people. Few of us live entirely at these opposite ends, but decades of debate has created two polarized camps–like an old bitter couple who no longer hear each other.
Now imagine a third friend entering the scene. He learns about your situation and reaches out to you first. His voice carries a note of concern, but you catch no shame in it. He neither dismisses your circumstances lightly nor runs from them. He disagrees without patronizing and affirms without compromising. You note a powerful difference between this kind of regard and the carte blanche acceptance of “friend one.” At a place deeper than lifestyle, sexuality, and ego, you feel a sense of unconditional hope and peace.
Same-sex advocates suspect this kind of third response. Some of them dismiss it as “love the sinner, hate the sin” condescension. But people who genuinely engage differences with both grace and truth walk a challenging road less traveled. This path runs between the following two ditches.
Ditch one: Traditionalism
Traditionalists wield truth without grace. Jaroslav Pelican spoke well of tradition, calling it “the living faith of dead;” but he called traditionalism “the dead faith of the living.” Whereas tradition helps convey a robust story of faith transcending time and place, traditionalism reduces faith to cold rules and institutional identity. Truth without grace creates a barrier of judgment around a shrinking community.
Ditch two: Progressivism
Progressivists push grace without truth. Victims are their platform and permission is their solution. They hang the world’s problems on the establishment, especially faith-based institutions. They trot their moral high horse down the path of least resistance into the ditch of self-centered freedom. Grace without truth elevates individual desires above any common vision of community.
The third way of grace and truth challenges men and women of faith to live with bold convictions and generous hearts. People on this road less traveled don’t discount their beliefs, but they are humble about how much they live up to them.
“What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. – G.K. Chesterton