One of the biggest stumbling blocks to grace is the thought that God’s love for us is unconditional. Perhaps you’ve heard, “The phrase ‘unconditional love’ is nowhere in the Bible.” That’s because the Bible writers were good writers who knew how to avoid redundant qualifiers. The phrase “unconditional love” is like “sunny sunshine” or “wet water.” Don’t you see? Love must be unconditional or it’s not love. There is no such thing as conditional love.
One Way Love, by Tullian Tchividjian, is a book that unpackages the glorious benefits of God’s unconditional love for us. It proclaims the good news of “God’s inexhaustible grace for an exhausted world.” It’s a book that will set you free from performancism in all its forms. It’s a book that will liberate you to being okay with not being okay.
Here’s a taste:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail. (p.36)
There’s a factoid at the start of One Way Love that fries my mind: “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.” This is shocking, but not surprising since the mantra of this world could be “perform or die trying.”
Sadly, this same performance mentality afflicts the church. You may have heard that you’ve got to work hard for Jesus. You’ve got to bear fruit, reap a harvest, and impact your city. I’m not denying the need; I’m objecting to the mindset that says you have to make it happen. I am opposed to the discriminatory practice of giving love to those who are getting the results while ignoring those who are falling through the cracks.
Tullian Tchividjian is known partly because he is Billy Graham’s grandson. But what is far more interesting to me is that he is the father of three children, including two teenagers. You see, grace is all well and good when preached from the pulpit but it’s at home and in the workplace where grace is actually revealed. What I particularly loved about this book was Tchividjian’s honesty when it came to his need for grace at home.
I haven’t graduated from my need for grace, and I never will… I still hurt the people I love. I wake up to the same demands that you do. I live with the same anxieties and insecurities. I know from personal experience, as you do, that the weight of life can be crushing. And even though I spend hours every day thinking and talking about grace, I struggle to believe too. But it is inside the pressing context of everyday life that one-way love becomes more than a theory, more than an idea, more than something that churchy people talk about on Sunday. It is there that one-way love becomes that which brings life and relief into our weary, scared bones. (pp.46-7)
One Way Love is an excellent introduction to the unconditional love of our God. (It reminded me of He Loves Me, by Wayne Jacobsen.) If I had to pick one small thing about the book that didn’t entirely resonate, it would be the last chapter where we are told we are “100 percent righteous (and) 100 percent sinful.” This is confusing. I understand that Tchividjian is trying to reconcile the lofty claims of the gospel with the muddy realities in which we live. But the fact is, you are one with the Lord and Jesus isn’t 100 percent sinful. He’s not even one percent sinful.
I’m not claiming to be perfect. I know my behavior is far from perfect. But I am not defined by my behavior. I am defined by Christ. Don’t you see? It’s a faith thing. It takes faith to look at Jesus and say, “As he is so am I in this world” (1 John 4:17). It takes no faith to identify with your mistakes and define yourself as the world does. Walk by faith, not by sight.
That said, I am very thankful for honest guys like Tchividjian who aren’t reluctant to talk about their great need for grace. We all need grace and the moment we start pretending that we don’t, we’re in big trouble.
So if you are honest about your need for grace, One Way Love is a book that will bless you.
See all E2R’s book reviews here.