I have been wanting to read One Way Love for a long time. I absolutely loved, loved, loved Tchividjian's Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Did I love One Way Love as much? I'm not sure. I certainly enjoyed reading it. I thought it was worth my time, very relevant. But in some ways it is covering the same material: grace, grace, all is grace. And I love the subject. I do. I think it's a message that is always worth hearing. But because I had already read Jesus + Nothing = Everything, it didn't wow me as much as it might have otherwise. I think it's a good book. I would definitely still recommend it.
Works righteousness is the term the Protestant Reformation used to describe spiritual performancism, and it has plagued the church—and the world—since the Garden of Eden. It might not be too much of an overstatement to say that if Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor and release to the captives, to restore sight to the blind and give freedom for the oppressed, then Christianity has come to stand for—and in practice promulgate—the exact opposite of what its founder intended (Luke 4:18–19).One Way Love is about our need to fight against works righteousness, this idea that we need to earn God's love or acceptance. It is about turning from the idea that we earn or add or contribute to our salvation, to our faith. The book is about embracing God's grace and using it as a foundation for our lives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The law offends us because it tells us what to do—and most of the time, we hate anyone telling us what to do. But ironically, grace offends us even more, because it tells us that there is nothing we can do, that everything has already been done. And if there is something we hate more than being told what to do, it’s being told that we can’t do anything, that we can’t earn anything—that we are helpless, weak, and needy. However much we hate the law, we are more afraid of grace. Because we are natural-born do-it-yourselfers, the vitriolic reaction to unconditional grace is understandable. Grace generates panic, because it wrestles both control and glory out of our hands.
The Law, to paraphrase Martin Luther, is a divine Hercules sent to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness—a monster that continues to harass the redeemed. We need the Law to freshly reveal to us that we are worse off than we think we are. We need to be reminded that there is something to be pardoned even in our best works and proudest achievements.
Contrary to what some Christians today would have you believe, the biggest problem facing the church today is not “cheap grace” but “cheap Law”—the idea that God accepts anything less than the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
The one-way love of God is restorative and reconciling because in the mystery of His cross, God has neutralized the effects of sin, forgiven its offense, blotted out its stain, expiated its guilt, and created a new beginning. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Thanks to Jesus’s sacrifice on my behalf, the sins I cannot forget, God cannot remember. Jesus is not waving some magic wand or being dishonest about who Peter was (or who we are). He is acting on the firm foundation of what his death on our behalf has accomplished. There is nothing cheap about the grace he offers repeat offenders. On the contrary—it cost him everything! The Gospel announces that Jesus came to acquit the guilty. He came to judge and be judged in our place. Christ came to satisfy the deep judgment against us once and for all so we could be free from the judgment of God, others, and ourselves. Jesus came to unburden us of our efforts at trying to deal with judgment on our own.
An identity based in the one-way love of God does not take into account public opinion or, thankfully, even personal opinion. It is a gift from Someone who is not you. As my friend Justin Buzzard wrote recently, “The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you, it frees you from what you think about yourself.” In other words, you are not who others see you to be, and you are not who you see yourself to be; you are who God sees you to be—His beloved child, with whom He is well pleased.
Salvation is not a matter of our coming to God. It is a matter of God coming to us. Robert Capon explains it in this way: Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the Gospel is to be dead. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be wise. You don’t have to be wonderful. You just have to be dead. That’s it.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible