top of page

navigating tough cultural conversations with grace and truth

Updated: May 30


We’ve probably all been there: you’re in a conversation with a brother or sister in Christ about a cultural hot topic, and they say something you believe is not in keeping with the heart of God in scripture.


Do you say something? Do you politely nod in apparent agreement in order to avoid an argument? Do you just change the subject? Or do you try your best to engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue?


i don't know about you, but i hate conflict

I’m one of those guys who would likely put a bumper sticker on my car that says, “Can’t we all just get along?” or “Be kind”.


I was a conflict-avoider my whole life – until I was introduced to Jesus. Jesus rocked my world with his unflinching commitment to the truth.


Have you ever studied out the truthfulness of Jesus in the gospels? That’s one of the most uncomfortable Bible studies I’ve ever done – but also one of the most important. Here’s a small sampling of what I found…


jesus spoke the truth


Jesus confronted people with the truth:

“Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw

miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill (John 6:26, NIV).”


Jesus spoke unpopular truths:

“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you… On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it (John 6:53, 60)?”


Jesus spoke controversial truths:

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds (John 8:58-59).”


Jesus spoke truth to power:

“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council… Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again (John 3:1,3).”


Jesus spoke the truth to his closest friends:

“Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times (John 13:38)!”


Jesus was eventually killed because he told the truth:

“As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things (John 8:40).”


Jesus didn’t just speak the truth; he embodied truth:

“Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”


In fact, Jesus told Pilate he was born to tell the truth:

            “Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and

came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens

to me (John 18:37b).”


This is just a small sampling. I’m sure you can think of many other scriptures that show how truthful Jesus was with everyone he met.

but wait, isn't it unloving to be that confrontational?

It can be, if we use the truth like a club to clobber people over the head. But that’s not how Jesus used truth. Remember that Jesus was the most loving man to ever walk the earth. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13:34-35)


Here’s the thing: when we study the character of Jesus, we find the most amazing combination of seemingly conflicting qualities: grace and truth. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).”


And Jesus didn’t just balance grace and truth – he was “full” of grace and truth. For Jesus, he didn’t have to set aside his love in order to be truthful. Rather, he leaned in with his love, and spoke the truth he knew we needed.


we're to "speak the truth in love"


The Apostle Paul explained that as Christ followers, we are to help others grow in maturity through speaking the truth in love. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:15)”


And so, that must be our hearts when speaking to others: genuinely looking out for their best interests, and speaking the truth in the most loving way possible – just as we would want done with us. As Jesus taught us: “Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).”


but who are we to claim to know truth?


None of us can claim to know the whole and complete truth like Jesus. We are all simply sinners with incomplete understandings of truth. But truth can be known. Jesus taught his believing followers, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31).” And Jesus prayed to his father, “…your word is truth (John 17:17b).” So, God’s Word is truth, and we can learn that truth as we hold to Jesus’ teachings.


In conversation with others, we don’t assume that we have the truth and they don’t. Nor do we assume that the truth cannot be known. We assume that God’s Word is truth, and we actively strive to find that truth together through humble and honest dialogue. The key is to love people enough to “speak the truth” that we understand, and be humble enough to learn the truth that we don’t.


all this convinced me that i needed to change


After taking an honest look at the scriptures, I could no longer be a conflict-avoiding, people pleaser and call myself a follower of the truth-telling Jesus. And for the last four decades of my Christian life, I have been on a personal quest to imitate the grace and truth of our Lord.


I don’t always do this well. But I try my best, since I’m convinced that telling people the truth, as I understand it, is one of the most loving things you can do for someone. As the fourth century church father, Augustine, said, “The greatest kindness one can render to any man is leading him to truth.”

so, how can all this help us in our conversations around culturally relevant topics?

While some get in spirited debates about emotionally charged subjects (politics, race, sexual identity, etc.), many of the rest of us stay on the sidelines, watching. We dare not enter the fray for fear that we will be labeled, canceled, or possibly even lose friendships.


But is that what Jesus would do? Is that the loving thing to do? Is that speaking the truth in love?


No one handles this perfectly. We’re all trying to figure out how to respond to the conflicts that have come to our doorstep in the church. I’m simply contributing this observation: burying our heads in the sand and maintaining our neutrality is neither loving nor Christlike. I think the scriptures we’ve looked at make that abundantly clear.


So, the next time you find yourself in that awkward moment of disagreement about a hot topic, try saying something like, “That’s interesting. Tell me more about that?” Genuinely listen and try to understand their perspective, and then genuinely share your own perspective.


Let’s do our very best to lovingly engage in these crucial conversations so that we can have mutually beneficial dialogue.


And may God grant us the gift of conducting ourselves at all times, and in every way, with the grace and truth of Jesus.


Jeff Chacon

Tampa, Florida


Jeff Chacon served in the full-time ministry as an Evangelist for over 30 years before retiring in 2022, and now serves as an Elder on the leadership team of the Anchor Point Church in Tampa, Florida, as well as the leadership team of the Florida Region of Churches, as well as being one of our designated Florida Peacemakers to help with conflict resolution around the state.  Jeff wrote the book “Dare to Dream Again,” an excellent resource for helping Christians overcome disappointment and setbacks.  You can order it HERE.


bottom of page