Since the first century, people have been reacting to Jesus and trying to define him by their reactions.

Sometimes it’s a wonder people find the real Jesus to follow. The truth of his message strikes a chord in their souls. The grace of his relationships appeals to their hearts. But they get confused which Jesus they should follow. Especially when his disciples emphasize either his truth over grace or his grace over truth.

Jesus is a multi-faceted person who often did the unexpected, loved paradoxes and turned the religious world around him upside down. But there is only one Jesus. His nature, his character and his heart have drawn admiration from literally every faith and from all corners of the world. Few people debate the fact that Jesus is the most influential person who ever lived on the third rock from the sun.

Why all the confusion? There are too many reasons to mention here, but let’s propose one. Since the first century, people have been reacting to Jesus and trying to define him by their reactions. Some of us who grew up in strict homes are either drawn to or react against the truth side of Jesus as he rebukes the Pharisees and drives the money changers out of the temple. Others of us are drawn or react against the grace side of Jesus and love his bringing the little children into his lap and his healing the blind and the lame. Are we responding to Jesus because we have fallen in love with his true nature or are we reacting to our own life situations and projecting on Jesus a nature we didn’t find in our own father, mother, minister, etc.? Did we used to love the truth side so much that when we woke to the fact that we misunderstood him, we reacted by running to his grace side? Or visa versa? Are we running to Jesus or away from something or someone?

You know how it feels when a Scripture you read all of your life suddenly jumps off the page and rocks your world. That happened to me a couple of years ago. As I was wrestling with understanding the nature of Jesus, John 1:14 stopped me cold.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I had previously focused on Jesus as the Word, the communication, the message of God’s love to people, the Lord. But I had not paid attention to Jesus as “full of grace and truth.” This simple phrase suddenly explained why the people of his day could not pigeonhole or stereotype him. He preached, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and yet he was constantly being criticized by the perfectionists for everything from not observing the Sabbath to not washing his hands properly. He ate in the homes of obvious sinners and asked for a drink from an adulterous woman of a mixed race yet he equated love with obedience (John 14:13-24). Was Jesus into truth or into grace?

The Holy Spirit wrote through Luke that Jesus was full of grace and truth. He fully possessed both qualities at the same time. But he wasn’t a split personality. He wasn’t constantly conflicted with inner turmoil over which one was more important. He was a mature representation of God come to earth. He was grace and truth in the beautiful, human visual aid showing us how God’s nature is the complete merging of mercy and justice. He wasn’t just a “balanced person” walking a tightrope of compromises and never taking a stand. In fact, when all of his friends deserted him and the humiliation of rejection drained him of his strength, Jesus’ intertwined character of grace and truth kept him relying on his Father. He held on to the grace and truth of his Father even while the Father turned his back on him as he bore the shame and guilt of our sins on the cross.

In this column, we will explore the nature of Jesus, God come to earth, the Messiah, Lord and Savior, as being full of both grace and truth. We will explore what that means for you and me as we walk in his steps on a daily basis. We won’t worry about defending the status quo or tearing it down. But we will be very concerned about understanding God through his most clear visible message to us.

These are just my thoughts as I run the race and explore the dimensions of Jesus’ love that always inspire me and leave me miles to grow. I would love to hear your perspective. Please write to:

See also: Grace and Truth: To Act or React? Grace and Truth: How Far the Pendulum Now?