I confess. I’m addicted to the law. If you’ve ever read the account of the prodigal son and identified with the older brother, or read the passage about the woman caught in adultery and (if you’re being honest with yourself ) you would have been in the crowd ready to cast stones, you probably are too.
Thankfully, God’s grace provides hope for all of us addicts.
I recently finished reading Pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s book, One Way Love, which is all about law and grace, how they are different and how they work together. It was a tremendous book and a reminder that I fall back into what he calls “performancism” all too often. And when I do, it’s wrong. (If you want to win a copy of One Way Love details are at the bottom of this post).
“[T]here is a difference between taking pride in what we do and worshipping it. When we worship at the altar of performance— and make no mistake, performancism is a form of worship— we spend our lives frantically propping up our images or reputations, trying to do it all —and do it all well— often at a cost to ourselves and those we love. Life becomes a hamster wheel of endless earning and proving and maintenance and management and controlling, where all we can see is our own feet. Performancism causes us to live in a constant state of anxiety, fear, and resentment until we end up heavily medicated, in the hospital, or just really, really unhappy.” Tchividjian writes.
I agreed with his diagnosis that when performancism invades the church or the life of a Christian, the result can be that “we can give people the impression that Christianity is first and foremost about the sacrifice we make for Jesus rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us; our performance for him rather than his performance for us; our obedience for him rather than his obedience for us.” (One Way Love, Kindle page 68-69)
Do you see the problem?
Unfortunately, for my type-A, to-do list making, control freak self, falling into legalism is easy. Turning Christianity into a bunch of rules to be followed, rather than a life to be walked out in faith and gratitude that all my sins (past, present and future) are already atoned for can be a real challenge.
That’s why I liked One Way Love. I chuckled as well as felt remorse and embarrassment over Tchividjian’s description of himself as a young believer, because it reminded me so much of my own early years as a Christian.
He writes, “I was a very legalistic young believer. It’s not uncommon for people who have recently undergone a conversion to experience an overzealous phase. In my case, I was trying to protect myself from going back to what I used to be. I wrongly concluded that, although I had been saved and pursued by God’s grace, it was now up to me to erect stringent boundaries and lay down the law on myself and everyone around me— only then would I be able to avoid the pain and self-destructiveness I had experienced before.” (One Way Love, Kindle pages 766-770)
That was also me during my teen years, although for different reasons. I took it upon myself to be some sort of enforcer of God’s Law rather than a communicator of God’s grace (clarification: God’s Law is Holy and just and right. It was the way I handled it that was wrong). My witness would have been more impactful if I’d taken the latter approach and even better if I had communicated both properly in tandem.
There have been some misconceptions floating around about this book. Having read the whole thing I can tell you, Tchividjian does not tear down the Law, rather he affirms it and what the Bible says its purpose is and then shows how the Gospel of God’s grace takes it from there and can inspire obedience out of love and gratitude rather than fear of reprisal.
This book was both convicting and encouraging. It reminded me of how great God’s grace is, and I needed that. It is something I need to remember more often. I liked the book so much I want to share it with someone.
One Way Love Giveaway Details: All you have to do to enter the drawing is leave a comment here on this page between now and July 20th. I’ll announce a winner next week. But if you wouldn’t mind sharing this with your friends on Facebook or on Twitter to let more people know, I’d be grateful for that. Disclaimer: I do not know Pastor Tchividjian, he is not affiliated with me in any way. I just found his book very helpful and want it to minister to someone else.