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DRC_Burnie R. Burnside

Burnie R. Burnside

You can be a Christian and believe just about anything you want.

That’s why we find Christians on both sides of every single issue, whether it’s political, financial, family or international issues. The Bible doesn’t tell us what being a “Christian” means. “Christian” is not the term that Jesus used to describe his followers. He called them disciples. Jesus said the one thing that should characterize his followers more than anything else is the way they love each other. He wants followers to love each other the way that he loved them.

How did Jesus love people? The Apostle John described Jesus’ love as absolutely full of grace and full of truth (John 1:14 NIV). Not grace or truth, but grace and truth. We want it to be one or the other. I lean toward truth when I’m telling other people what to do. I lean toward grace when it’s about me. Most of us want to push Jesus in one direction or the other. But Jesus brought both grace and truth to bear into every single situation.

For example, one day he shows up at a well and a Samaritan woman came out. He was all alone with the Samaritan woman, and he talked to her, which was not socially and culturally acceptable. Jewish men were not supposed to talk to Samaritan women, especially alone. That is his grace to her. He says: “Would you use your jar to get me some water?”

Then just when things are going good, Jesus says, “Hey, I want you to go back into town and get your husband.” She replies, “Well, I have no husband.” He says, “I know.” Then he reaches into the most painful, shameful part of her life. He says, “You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now is not your husband. You’ve done a horrible job when it comes to men. You’re not good with men.” Grace and truth.

Then Jesus reveals to this woman something he hasn’t revealed to anyone else. He looks her in the eyes, and says, “I haven’t told anyone this yet, but you are eyeball to eyeball with the Messiah. I can give you water that will quench the thirst of your soul in a way that no man will ever do it.” Then she goes into town and tells the people, “I have met the Messiah of God.” He is full of grace and full of truth.

Another example. Everybody hated Matthew the tax collector. They considered tax collectors to be Jewish traitors. Jesus calls to Matthew while he’s collecting taxes.

“I want you to join my group and follow me,” Jesus said. His disciples were thinking, “Wait, if we have a tax gatherer in our group, people are going to think that we approve of tax gathering.” To which, Jesus might have said: “It’s going to get worse. We’re actually going to his house. He’s going to invite all of his tax-gathering friends. So yeah, if you think your reputation is in jeopardy now, wait until this afternoon when the party cranks up. You’re going to have no reputation in this community because everybody is going to see you mixing with tax gatherers and sinners.”

When his disciples asked him about whether that would look like approval, Jesus would have said, “I came to seek and to save those who are lost. I’m not here to guard my reputation.”

If you want to know what Jesus meant when he said to love one another, then you look at how Jesus loved. Jesus’ example shows us that we should always love people, even when we disagree with their politics or their behavior.

As followers of Jesus, we don’t always get this right. We have a tendency to offer grace or truth. We don’t always know how to offer both grace and truth at the same time. It’s messy. The followers of Jesus are at their best when they embrace both grace and truth and refuse to let go of either.

THE REV. BURNIE R. BURNSIDE is semi-retired after serving Hope Community Nazarene Church in Denton. He serves as chaplain for the Denton Police Department. Email him at docburnside@gmail.com.

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