One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World

One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World

by Tullian Tchividjian


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Real life is long on law and short on grace-the demands never stop, the failures pile up, and fear sets in. Life requires many things from us-a stable marriage, successful children, a certain quality of life. Anyone living inside the guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty of daily life knows that the weight of life is heavy. We are all in need of some relief.

Bestselling author Tullian Tchividjian is convinced our exhausted world needs a fresh encounter with God's inexhaustible grace-His one-way love. Sadly, however, Christianity is perceived as being a vehicle for good behavior and clean living-and the judgments that result from them-rather than the only recourse for those who have failed over and over and over again. Tchividjian convincingly shows that Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.

In this "manifesto," Tchividjian calls the church back to the heart of the Christian faith-grace. It is time for us to abandon our play-it-safe religion, and to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, unflinching grace. It's shocking and scary, unnatural and undomesticated ... but it is also the only thing that can set us free and light the church-and the world-on fire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780781406901
Publisher: David C Cook
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 371,678
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Tullian Tchividjian is the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. The author of numerous books, including Jesus + Nothing = Everything andGlorious Ruin, Tchividjian speaks at conferences around the world. He and his wife, Kim, have three children.

Read an Excerpt




David C. Cook

Copyright © 2013 Tullian Tchividjian
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0690-1



If you eat your broccoli, you can have some dessert. If you clean up your room, you'll get a star, and if you get a star, then Mom and Dad will be happy. If you get good grades, you will pass the class, and if you pass the class, you will graduate. If you work hard, you'll make some money, and if you get enough money, you can buy that car. If you have a nice car, she might finally go out with you, and if you treat her nice, she may stick around. If you hurt her feelings, though, and need her forgiveness, you'll have to say you're sorry. But if she agrees to marry you, then maybe the guys at work will look at you differently, and of course, if you get their respect, you might be considered for that promotion. There will be more responsibilities, so you had better perform, because if you don't, the company won't have a good quarter, and, well, there might have to be some cutbacks. If you lose your job, you might not be able to provide for your family, and schools aren't cheap. There are no free lunches, after all. Even broccoli is getting more expensive these days.

The fact is, real life is long on law and short on grace—the demands never stop, the failures pile up, and fears set in. Life requires many things from us—a successful career, a stable marriage, well-behaved and emotionally adjusted children, a certain quality of life. When life gets hard, the hardworking work harder. Is it any wonder we're all so tired? We do our best to do better, do more, and do now. The cultural pressure to take care of yourself and "make it happen" by working harder and smarter wears us out. We live with long lists of things to accomplish and people to please. Anyone living inside the guilt, anxiety, stress, strain, and uncertainty of daily life knows from instinct, and hard experience, that the weight of life is heavy. We are all in need of some relief.

Whoever said life is a two-way street was on to something. Reward and punishment, this for that, reciprocity—whatever you want to call it—defines more than just our economy. Our relationships, our careers, our institutions also run on the principle of "I'll do X for you, if you do Y for me." Everything in our world demands two-way love. Everything's conditional. If you love me, only then will I love you. If you give to me, only then will I give to you. If you serve me, only then will I serve you. This conditionality plagues us at every turn and keeps us enslaved to fear, reservation, and insecurity. Owing and deserving seem to be written into the fabric of human nature and civilization.

Most of the time, conditionality makes our lives easier and less confusing. If we can simply find the right set of conditions to meet and then we meet them, our happiness is secured. "Give me three steps to a happy marriage, and I can guarantee myself a happy marriage ... if I can simply follow the three steps." It gives us something to count on, both on a personal and global scale. Through it, we gain safety and control—whether it be in a relationship, a career, or society in general. Every hurdle we jump, every rung we climb, brings with it momentary satisfaction before reliably revealing the next one. And there's nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes. We live in a conditional world.

The problem comes, as it always does, when things fall apart. When we can't meet our end of the bargain. For every "If you do," there's an "if you don't." For every promise of reward, there is the threat of punishment—which is where anger and sadness and insecurity and fear rear their heads. If the job isn't done right, no one gets paid. And there's a long line of people waiting to give it a try if you aren't willing to. If you don't live up to his expectations, he will dump you. If you refuse to give us what we want, we will yell and scream and make your life difficult. If she doesn't say she's sorry, you will bear a grudge. If you don't exercise regularly and eat well, you will gain weight (and you will feel bad about yourself). If you can't see how much this means to me, I will resent you. Round and round and round it goes, but the underlying message is always the same: accomplishment precedes acceptance; achievement precedes approval.

And this is to say nothing of can! Like a poor shopkeeper trying to wriggle free of a mob boss, sometimes the conditions we encounter are simply impossible to meet. Have you ever met someone who has spent their entire life trying to live up to the conditions for approval and love set by a demanding parent? Oftentimes not even the death of that parent will silence the accusation. Or perhaps you've met someone who is tormented by their own internal, impossibly high standards of behavior or success or beauty; even at their peak, they are always just shy of being good enough.

We have all sorts of ways we justify our perfectionism, but none of them can change the fact that instead of gratification, or even lasting excellence, impossible conditions ultimately produce exhaustion, bitterness, and shame. Unfortunately, this truth rarely stops us from hoisting such conditions on others and ourselves. It may be all we know.


There are many things for which Christianity is known in the modern world—not all of them good. In fact, the Christian faith has often been perceived (and experienced) as the ultimate vehicle of conditionality. Christians may talk about God being loving and forgiving, but what they mean is that God loves and forgives those who are good and clean—who meet His conditions, in other words.

Or maybe it is more subtle than that. Maybe you are a Christian, and you rightly believe that God forgave your past indiscretions—that was what drew you to Him in the first place. But once you made that initial Christian commitment, it was time to get your act together and be serious. We conclude that it was God's blood, sweat, and tears that got us in, but that it's our blood, sweat, and tears that keep us in. We view God as a glorified bookkeeper, tallying our failures and successes on His cosmic ledger. We conclude that in order for God to love us, we have to change, grow, and be good. Staying on the straight and narrow out of fear is incredibly stressful, but you tell yourself it's better than the alternative: naked trust in the too-good-to-be-true goodness of Someone you can't control. There is, after all, no free lunch. If you want love, you must earn it.

I exaggerate, but not much. Hence the scores of "sad and mad alumnae of the Christian faith." Yet the tragic irony is that, contrary to popular assumptions, the Bible is a not a record of the blessed good, but rather the blessed bad. That's not a typo. The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it's a witness to God making it down to the worst people. Far from being a book full of moral heroes whom we are commanded to emulate, what we discover is that the so-called heroes in the Bible are not really heroes at all. They fall and fail; they make huge mistakes; they get afraid; they're selfish, deceptive, egotistical, and unreliable. The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin with His salvation, our guilt with His grace, our badness with His goodness. The overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. Which means that the Bible is not first a recipe book for Christian living but a revelation book of Jesus who is the answer to our un-Christian living.

This sad misperception is something I sincerely hope might be dispelled in this book. But let's not limit the scope of the issue: the oppressiveness of conditionality is a human reality, not an exclusively Christian one. The wider world is chock-full of ladders to climb and clubs to join, two-way streets where the traffic often seems to be going in reverse. Everyone knows what it is like not to measure up in some arena.

Fortunately, no amount of bad press, whether deserved or undeserved, has been able to fully obscure the core message of Christianity—its most urgent contribution and the basis of its captivating power—which has to do with the beauty and freedom of God's unconditional love. This book seeks to recover and reiterate that word of tremendous hope in an honest and accessible way for the sake of those suffering under the weight of conditionality, which is everyone. It is concerned with the miraculous Good News of God's inexhaustible grace for an exhausted world.


What is grace? The definition for this book comes from Paul Zahl. He writes:

Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable.... The cliché definition of grace is "unconditional love." It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing....

Let's go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called "gifts" (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold.... Grace is one-way love.

Grace doesn't make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus's day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous. It doesn't use sticks, carrots, or time cards. It doesn't keep score. As Robert Capon puts it, "Grace works without requiring anything on our part. It's not expensive. It's not even cheap. It's free." It refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit, or deservedness. It is opposed to what is owed. It doesn't expect a return on investments. It is a liberating contradiction between what we deserve and what we get. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love.

Think about it in your own life for a moment. Odds are you have caught a glimpse of one-way love at some point, and it made all the difference. Someone let you off the hook when you least expected or deserved it. A friend suspended judgment at a key moment. Your father was lenient when you wrecked his car. Your teacher gave you an extension, even though she knew you had been procrastinating. You said something insensitive to your spouse, and instead of retaliating, she kept quiet and somehow didn't hold it against you the next day. If you're married, odds are the person you ended up with showed you this kind of love at some point along the line.

One-way love is rare, though, and it always comes as a surprise. Fortunately, the glimpses we receive in relationships are only a foreshadowing of God's love for us. They are like little arrows that point to the very heart of the universe, what Dante called "the Love that moves the Sun and the other stars," the love that received its fullest expression in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When John writes that "God is love," he is talking about Jesus (1 John 4:8–9). Indeed, if we're to explore this subject in any depth, there's no better backdrop than Jesus's life and teaching. Each chapter will look at a different episode from his ministry.

When the chain of quid pro quo is broken, all sorts of wonderful things can happen. One-way love has the unique power to inspire generosity, kindness, loyalty, and more love, precisely because it removes any and all requirement to change or produce. As some of the stories in later chapters will attest, it is the only thing that has had that power in my own life. It has been the difference between joy and sadness, gratitude and entitlement, life and death. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize how much my life is one long testament to this abiding truth. I'm not overstating things when I say that discovering the message of God's one-way love in all its radical glory has saved my marriage, my relationship with my kids, and my ministry. So this is not an abstract subject to me. One-way love is my lifeblood.

And yet, as beautiful and lifesaving as grace can be, we often resist it. By nature, we are suspicious of promises that seem too good to be true. We wonder about the ulterior motives of the excessively generous. We long ago stopped opening those emails and letters that tell us what we've "already won." What's the catch? What's the fine print? What's in it for them?

Grace is a gift, pure and simple. We might insist on trying to pay, but the balance has been settled (and our money's no good!). Of course, even if we're able to accept one-way love when it comes our way, we have trouble when it reaches other people, especially those who've done us wrong. As we will explore in subsequent chapters, grace offends our sense of justice by being both implausible and unfair.

We are uncomfortable because grace turns the tables on us, relieving us of our precious sense of control. It tears up the time card we were counting on to be assured of that nice, big paycheck on Friday. It forces us to rely on the goodness of Another, and that, dear friends, is simply terrifying. However much we may hate having to get up and go to the salt mines every day, we distrust the thought of completely resting in the promised generosity of God even more. So we try to domesticate the message of one-way love—after all, who could trust in or believe something so radically unbelievable? Robert Capon articulates the prayer of the grace-averse heart:

Restore to us, Preacher, the comfort of merit and demerit. Prove for us that there is at least something we can do, that we are still, at whatever dim recess of our nature, the masters of our relationships. Tell us, Prophet, that in spite of all our nights of losing, there will yet be one redeeming card of our very own to fill the inside straight we have so long and so earnestly tried to draw to. But whatever you do, do not preach grace ... We insist on being reckoned with. Give us something, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.

The idea that there is an unconditional love that relieves the pressure, forgives our failures, and replaces our fear with faith seems too good to be true. Longing for hope in a world of hype, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the news we have been waiting for all our lives: God loves real people like you and me, which He demonstrated by sending His real Son to set real people free.

Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up. He came to emancipate us from the burden to get it all right, from the obligation to fix ourselves, find ourselves, and free ourselves. Jesus came to release us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. Because Jesus came to set the captives free, life does not have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, and validate ourselves.

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. One way to summarize God's message to the worn out and weary is like this—God's demand: "be righteous"; God's diagnosis: "no one is righteous"; God's deliverance: "Jesus is our righteousness." Once this good news grips your heart, it changes everything. It frees you from having to be perfect. It frees you from having to hold it all together. In the place of exhaustion, you might even find energy.

No, the Gospel of grace is not too good to be true. It is true! It's the truest truth in the entire universe. God loves us independently of what we may or may not bring to the table. There are no strings attached! No ifs, ands, or buts. No qualifiers or conditions. No need for balance. No broccoli in sight! Grace is the most dangerous, expectation-wrecking, smile-creating, counterintuitive reality there is.


Excerpted from ONE WAY LOVE by TULLIAN TCHIVIDJIAN. Copyright © 2013 Tullian Tchividjian. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 17

Introduction 19

Chapter 1 An Exhausted World 27

Chapter 2 How I Almost Killed My Mother 39

Chapter 3 Confessions of a Performancist 59

Chapter 4 I Fought the Law (and the Law Won) 77

Chapter 5 Ex-Convicts, Failed Disciples, and One-Way Love 99

Chapter 6 The Unexpected Benefits of Hugging a Cactus 119

Chapter 7 Grace In Everyday Life 141

Chapter 8 An Offensive Gift 167

Chapter 9 Objections to One-Way Love 185

Chapter 10 The End of To-Do Lists 207

Notes 229

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One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read on the grace of God. Although Mr. Tchividjian does a superb job covering the theological questions surrounding what grace is, what self-righteousness is, etc., the strength of the book is in its very wonderful descriptions (from his own life and others) on the amazing workings of Christ's grace. I have never read any of Tullian Tchividjian's books before, and was pleasantly surprised.  A thoroughly refreshing book to remember what Christ has done on my behalf.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A MUST READ for every believer....this book is scripturally sound, an easy read and very relevant to the spiritual and relational issues believers face today....personally a 30 year old religious veil has been removed from my eyes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has literally changed my life i cant look at my relationship with god the same way after reading this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
God's Love for us, so much more than we can imagine. It is a gift, we do nothing but a big swallow of ourself. The author is very honest and speaks of his rebellion and then his transformation and how he slipped into legalism. He talks about how the church has a difficult time accepting grace. honest, thought provoking, life changing. I dare you to read it with an open mind!