This past Sunday Tullian Tchividjian confessed to having an affair. You can read about it here. I follow Tullian pretty closely. I read his books, listen to his podcasts, and went to his Liberate conference in 2014. (Liberate is now closed.) Here are some thoughts about the situation:
- My concern is this situation gives the message of grace a black-eye. It’s not that grace becomes less beautiful, but this gives people more ammunition to say that too much grace leads to debauchery; that speaking about grace too much gives people license to sin, with Tullian serving as the most recent example. Grace already sounds like a foreign language to us (Swedish?), and this situation doesn’t help.
- However, I can’t help but think that this situation helps the message of grace. The brilliant beauty of the Good News of grace is best seen against the black backdrop of our sin. The best way to see a diamond is to see it against the jeweler’s dark material. What Tullian did was sinful and he has hurt many, many people, but because of the Gospel of grace, this doesn’t change one degree of God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness of Tullian. I think this situation doesn’t tarnish grace, but actually brilliantly displays grace. Tullian has always said that grace runs downhill and meets you at the bottom. Well, here he is, at the bottom.
- I’d still go to the 2016 Liberate conference if it didn’t shut down. I like to listen to Tullian, but I’d go fully knowing that Tullian will be out of the pulpit, probably forever. I’d go because it’s about the Man who the message is about, not about the man giving the message. In spite of Tullian, the Good News of grace still stands. What Tullian did has nothing to do with the message of grace, and has everything to do with the sin in his heart.
- The nature of grace is wild, untamed, even dangerous. Grace always flows to the wrong people like hookers, and addicts, and half-breeds, and slutty women, and lame guys. My fear is preachers (and I am one) will try to tame grace, to put grace on a leash. Preachers will say, “Yes, grace, BUT…” Grace’s wings will be clipped with a 1000 qualifiers. “Yes, grace, but you have to do your part.” “Yes, grace, but keep up your end of the deal.” “Yes, grace, but do what it takes to transform.” Nervous pastors will always need to keep grace in a cage otherwise they lose a sense of control and manageability over their congregations, and ultimately themselves. Rule-keeping gives you a sense that you’re pulling it off and that God is grateful that he didn’t waste his grace on you. But in reality, grace threatens moral superiority because grace tells you that you’re just like — Tullian (gasp!). The Gospel of grace first knocks you on your back and exposes you for who you really are, but let’s not go there. God forbid that we actually see the “first Adam” in us, always trying to cover our shame with the external fig leaves of good works.
- What about obedience? I think we mistakenly connect grace with obedience like connecting eating ice cream and wearing shoes, or going swimming and scratching your elbow – one has nothing to do with the other. The grace of God we have through faith in Christ has nothing to do with our obedience; it has nothing to do with us, period. But you don’t throw out obedience like you don’t stop wearing shoes or scratching your itch. Because of grace we can actually hold obedience in its proper place. Because grace has nothing to do with our obedience, we can now obey, not for God’s sake, but for the sake of others and ourselves. Stop trying to prove yourself to God and to others. Believe and rest in the obedience of Christ. Know that in your feeble attempts at obedience, God looks at you in Christ and says, “That’s my kid!!” And know that in your fantastic failure to even come close to the obedience that God’s Law requires, God looks at you in Christ and says, “That’s my kid!!”