Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love, by John Crotts. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018. 137 pp. $14.00. ISBN 978-1-60178-586-2 [Reviewed by Brenda Hoekstra]
Most SB readers have heard of and believe that they live by the scriptural truth of Ephesians 4:15, ‘speak the truth in love.’ When the truth is a real part of you because you wholeheartedly believe it, your zeal can actually get in the way of the very truth you are trying so fervently to present. When we are bringing important things that need to be said to others, when we are delivering truth, graciousness is not an optional ingredient. This distinctive property of graciousness is commanded to be included. God cares about more than just the words you say; He cares about how you say those words. This book teaches the graciousness that God requires of those who speak His truth.
This book uses the Bible to describe graciousness. It includes positive examples and commands about graciousness as well as the negative consequences for those who lack grace. There is also a wide variety of practical methods for cultivating graciousness. The book teaches that growth in graciousness should match our growth in knowledge, otherwise knowledge is a trap for our pride. This book shows what it is to use truth inappropriately. The author frees us from thinking that we are responsible for any results; we can become simply the instruments of delivering God’s message with graciousness while leaving the results to Him. He also teaches us to guard our hearts from evil, not only the evil from outside ourselves but most importantly from inside our-selves. This is the evil that may bubble up and over into our attitudes and from our mouths, causing us to bring God’s truth ungraciously, with pride and harshness. I have heard many in our midst ask how to go about witnessing; this book helps equip believers for a graciousness that corresponds to a passionate commitment to truth. This is the essence of witnessing.
The thing I really liked about this book was the encouragement to grow in graciousness as a body, in the church; with each other, by each other, for each other, and through each other; and then, out to those around each of us in our daily lives. Apart from the body of Christ, one is unable effectively to practice and implement graciousness in life. We learn from Christ and, by Him, from each other. God has built the imitation dynamic into the fabric of the human soul. We are able to grow in graciousness by imitating those gracious people around us who are fed by the Word and who may have more life capital. The author promotes listening to sermons and reading books about graciousness. There is a beautiful emphasis on graciousness as learned and increased through corporate worship as these examples show:
Coming to church services faithfully cultivates graciousness as members seek to serve and encourage one another for the Lord’s sake…your gaze is moved from you…and is fixed on the Lord and His people;
The context for Paul’s command to speak the truth in love [I Cor. 13:1-2] is the mutual ministry of one member to another, which produced spiritual maturity of the parts, which results in maturity of the whole…‘that we should no longer be children,…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love’ (Eph. 4:14-16).
The Scripture in the book was from the New KJV and easily recognizable. This book challenged me personally to examine and work on my own graciousness and respect the truth that I bring as God’s rather than mine.