“Full of grace and truth” has stayed with me this Christmas 2020 season to dispel the gloom of unreformed Scrooges, unredeemed Grinches, and an unrelenting pandemic.
The Gospel writer John used “full of grace and truth” to describe God’s coming into this world through the beloved child and prophet Jesus. John gets credit as a theologian for his elevated prologue beginning “In the beginning was the Word…” but, in truth, we are all theologians, speculating in our own “Tiny Tim” ways about the nature of the universe, of humanity, and the nature of God.
In early Christianity, “theologia” was communion with God, so maybe it’s better to consider John a mystic, a contemplative whose vision revealed a thin place—Jesus—where God’s grace and truth could touch, heal, transform our confusions and delusions and self-elevating pride.
Blending grace and truth, to my very human perspective, is as challenging as mixing divinity and humanity. When I think of those among us full of grace, they seem able to be gracious because they hold their tongues when it comes to truth: “No, you don’t look fat.” “No, your profits are well-deserved.” “Yes, you are super.”
When I think of those among us full of truth, they come across as challenging, even judgmental, spoilers, disagreeable. Yes, they are prophets and whistleblowers and much needed in our self-deceptive, aggrandizing, fame- and wealth-driven world, but dinner with them? Heavens, please, no!
But one of the characteristics that makes divinity “divine” seems to me to be its ability to integrate both grace and truth. “Yes, you belong,” grace says. “Yes, you belong,” truth says. In the view of process theologian Daniel Day Williams, belonging is as vital (as in life-giving) as believing. Grace tells us we belong. Truth tells us we belong.
The belonging Jesus proclaimed confirms our place in creation and our citizenship in God’s common spiritual wealth, neither of which is to be taken lightly. That’s grace with a dose of truth.
Happy New Year!
Relevant New York Times columns by Peter Weimer:
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Copyright © 2020 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.