Drastic, Gratuitous, Liberating, Scandalous

. . . dangerous, reckless, irrational, absurd, shocking, rare, and surprising.

These are not the labels normally associated with the word “grace,” but Tullian Tchividjian would say that this is because our idea of grace is too tame.  In One Way Love, he begins a conversation about the love of God that pulverizes the church’s embrace of performancism — the “mindset that equates our identity and value directly to our performance and accomplishments.”  Because God’s love is not tied to our behavior (or even how well we love Him in return), we are free to honor God by practicing the same kind of one way love toward the people in our lives:  the sinners and the saints, spouses and bosses, in-laws and out-laws.

This morning, as he was getting ready for work, my husband surprised me by asking, “Aren’t you reading a book by Tullian Tchividjian? You need to read this article in World Magazine.”

Are there words to describe the way a reader feels when she discovers that an author has lost his moorings?  It has never been my practice to respond to current events in my blog posts — I’m just not usually free or organized enough to frame anything timely, but in this case the book had been read, the review nearly written when on June 22, 2015, Tullian released the following statement to the Washington Post:

“I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues. As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family. As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself. Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign.”

In One Way Love, Tullian is very transparent about his marriage, its rocky beginning, and their struggle to live out their Christian life together.  He devotes an entire chapter to the topic of grace in everyday life.  Ironically, Marvin Olasky speaks from this angle in the report from World Magazine:

“Clearly, we need God’s grace. Any list of rules we impose drops us into legalism—and the Bible clearly shows us that legalism doesn’t work. Sometimes, though, we drop into antinomianism, the idea that we should scoff at all rules, and that doesn’t work either. When I interviewed Tchividjian four years ago, he was hard on rule-keeping, and he’s right when we confuse simplicity with salvation—but some simple rules make good sense. How does that apply here? No rule prevents adultery, but one rule does help—and ironically, in regard to this tragedy, it’s a rule that Tchividjian’s grandpa, Billy Graham, made famous. The Graham rule is that he would never meet, eat, or travel with a woman alone.”

Does this obvious need for boundaries in our everyday living negate what Tullian wrote about grace?

I don’t think so — at least, I don’t want to think so.

I have experienced the soul-crumpling weight of the law’s demands and am grateful for the aerodynamics of grace when it provides the lift and velocity to accomplish what the law requires.  As mum to four and a gram-in-training, I long for — and am committed to — relational grace over manipulation and the follow-the-dots predictability and control that the law promises.

However, in Tullian’s own words, “it’s a low view of the Law that produces legalism, because a low view of the Law causes us to conclude that we can do it — the bar is low enough for us to jump over.  A low view of the Law makes us think that the standards are attainable, the goals reachable, the demands are doable.”

And, too late, he realized that a low view of the Law would convince a man that he can “scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned,” (Proverbs 6:27), that he can open his heart to a woman-not-his-wife without falling into sin.  I mourn over this moral train-wreck because Tullian Tchividijian has written a fine book, overflowing with truth about salvation by grace alone apart from our morbid introspection and preoccupation with performance.  May we read and learn that the truth of God transcends the fidelity and the consistency of His messengers.   May we hold a high view of the Law in one hand, and a high view of God’s grace in the other so that our hearts will not fall away from the open-handed love of God.

This book was provided by David C. Cook in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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6 thoughts on “Drastic, Gratuitous, Liberating, Scandalous”

  1. Hi Michele I’m so glad to see this post. My husband and I lead a small group and have been considering this book for a group discussion study. The issues of law and grace are hard to understanding in a daily lifestyle for many. I’m grateful for some honest thoughts on it.

    I’d love for you to join my weekly link up, The Cozy Reading Spot, where we share everything that is on our hearts, minds and bookshelves. This post, and the others I’ve browsed through, would be a great addition to our little community. It opens every Thursday, and I’d love to see you there!


    Reading List home to The Cozy Reading Spot


  2. What a beautiful response, Michele; “May we hold a high view of the Law in one hand, and a high view of God’s grace in the other so that our hearts will not fall away from the open-handed love of God.” I think knowing our weaknesses helps us to set those boundaries in place that help us from “falling” into sin. But no matter how far we fall, we can’t fall low enough that God’s grace can’t reach us.

    Liked by 1 person

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