Well, the terrible news has come out this week that Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has confessed to having an affair and has stepped down from the pastorate. I have met him and talked to him personally a number of occasions at some of the conferences I go to, and I really love the guy. I can’t stand to see him going through this terrible circumstance, and it makes me really sad. He has been a consistent and forceful voice for the radical grace of the gospel, and this is a most unfortunate event. I wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts.
Fallen from Grace?
Firstly, of course he hasn’t fallen from grace! There is no such thing as that, or grace wouldn’t be grace. He has transgressed the moral law. This is one of those times when you have to point out that forgiveness is proven when forgiveness is needed. It seems obvious. You don’t go to the doctor to have him say, “You have a broken arm! Are you kidding? Come back when you’re healed and I’ll help you.” You need a doctor when you’re sick, and you need forgiveness when you’ve sinned. God understands that (duh!), and the community of faith depends on that truth to be a community at all.
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Grace in Community
Secondly, grace in community principles are going to have to come into action here. Many instances in Tullian’s marriage have apparently led to the current unfortunate circumstance. Expectations of certain standards of behavior on both sides of the marriage were probably transgressed many many times before it got dramatic. Tullian tweeted after this all went down, “No vertical condemnation does not mean no horizontal consequences. Surrender early.” I have always disagreed that vertically there is grace but horizontally there is law. Tullian has to determine, does the blood of Jesus define his wife, or does her obvious imperfections? Kim (his wife) has to determine, does the blood of Jesus define her husband, or does his obvious imperfections? Are they going to draw lines now and say they need “boundaries” or are they going to believe in the gospel for each other? Believing in the gospel for each other at this point is going to be very difficult, but that is why the work of God is to believe in Christ (John 6:29). It is the very central heart of Christian relationships. Not the law.
Even more, all the rest of us need to defend the power of Jesus’ blood over his life. He is quite a public figure. It sends a bad message if the whole radical grace community suddenly says that the law should define him. We need to speak grace and kindness and restoration and faith in the persistent dogged stubborn resurrection love of God over the both of them. In our hearts we must believe that God still thinks they are easily worth the death of the Son of God. This is a big opportunity to press grace for the win. Let’s do it.
Thirdly, there is the matter of liberate.org. This is being handled so very extremely poorly. Here is the message: we are going to proclaim grace grace grace until our figurehead guy needs it. Then we are going to fold and admit that when it comes down to it, grace is all a sham. Tullian was the single repository of grace and gospel teaching, so now tear it all down? NO NO NO! Bring it back up! Traffic is spiking now on the site. Be bold! Proclaim grace even louder. Answer back to John MacArthur. Proclaim grace and a time of respite and healing for Tullian and Kim. This is a bad message: “Grace, until you need it. Psyche!” Now is the time to stand strong for the message of the gospel. There are some very very smart gifted and spiritual people who have been contributing to the site. Have Jono or someone else post a thoughtful position on what is happening with Tullian, and keep proclaiming the gospel! And, KEEP TULLIAN’S POSTS ON THE SITE! He has been teaching law and gospel forever, and all of this stuff is more true than ever now. Be different. Don’t cancel the conference! Expand it! More cities! Come on guys!!!! Don’t let condemnation win over mercy and grace! This is one of the worst parts of this whole thing.
Fourthly, what will happen now with Tullian? Is his chance for ministry gone forever? Balderdash. The law waits to find fault and then strips people of the authority to do ministry. Jesus seeks out the fallen and restores them to mission. I always talk about how Peter denied Jesus three times, and contributed to His death. Yet Jesus came back and restored his dignity, and restored his authority and mission. He said, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.” You know what, I actually stole this idea from Tullian! This whole thing has been a huge sin and was massively stupid on Tullian’s part. Yes, even in his confession, he threw his wife under the bus. There is a lot of pig-headed sin still going on. There is some soul-searching and some humbling and some healing to be done. I’m not calling for Tullian to be restored to the pastorate. But I am saying that his life is far from over. Jesus died for these things and the world may have disqualified him, but God has not. This is a part of His story, and God causes all things to work together for good — even our horrible sins. This is the message of the cross, and the message of the cross defines Tullian far more than this current circumstance. I will greatly rejoice on the day that I see Tullian restored to ministry! Let’s pray for that day to come in the right time.
The Legalist Response
Finally, there is going to be a circus for the “nomians” looking to discredit the gospel of grace message, which some people call “hyper-grace”. It’s already started. More than ever, we all need to speak more forcefully than ever for the gospel of grace, and tear down speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). Tullian has preached the need for grace, as have many of us, for years. Now he actually needs it, so that discredits the message? Balderdash! Only people under the law say so. Tullian is not the figurehead of the grace gospel movement – Jesus is!!! Keep up the good fight my beautiful gospel-believing friends!