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Picking up the pieces.
Honestly, I didn’t know how to react . . . I didn’t even know what to feel. There was sadness. There was sorrow. There was confusion. There was shock. There was anger. And there was bitterness. A grim amalgamation of emotions flooded over me as I read the devastating news of Tullian Tchividjian’s resignation from the senior pastorship of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As more details made their way online, like one of my friends, I kept closing my eyes hoping to wake up and realize it was all a dream. But the sobering reality was all too real. We humans are a fragile bunch.
It’s always devastating when a leader stumbles and falls — especially so when that leader is one whom you’ve admired, regarded, and become devoted to. As many can likely say of him, Tullian Tchividjian’s ministry, through speaking and writing, has literally changed my life. He gave me a copy of his book One Way Love when it was first released and my eyes were opened to the visceral, unilateral love and grace of God through his Son, Jesus Christ. I quickly saturated myself with his sermons and columns and resources, and began diving into this gospel of grace which he was so committed to. I subsequently read a prior work of his, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, and became even more aware that his was a ministry I wanted to follow, be apart of, and continue dousing myself in.
Tullian was my initial inspiration to start writing; he was even acknowledged as the biggest influence in my own authoring endeavor. He was, in a sense, a hero to me. Perhaps that adulation was unfounded . . . but I knew that it wasn’t Tullian the man that was changing me but Tullian the channel: the Holy Spirit through his vessel, Pastor Tullian. Therefore, when I read those lines, it jolted me. The news was jarring, dispiriting — utterly cheerless. I feel sadness for Tullian and the rest of the Tchividjian family, for having such an intimate matter exposed in such a glaring fashion. The humiliation and disgrace they must be enduring is something I never wish upon anyone.
I only pray that they’re not unsettled to the point of forgetting that, regardless of their horizontal ramifications, their vertical relationship is forever settled and secure in the work of the Son. They still stand before a holy, gracious God that declares unto them, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1) They come into a throne room of grace (Heb 4:16), before a God, “who is rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), and is “mighty to save” (Is 63:1), and stand clean in the presence of an Advocate who’s taken all their filth upon himself and given them his cleanness. (Zec 3:1-5)
My thoughts and prayers are with the family, that they may be surrounded by love and grace and friends that might lift them up in this time of great distress. I also feel deep sorrow for the CRPC family, having to weather the unrest and dismay of losing their senior pastor through such scandalous events. I’ve talked to some people close to the situation and their pain is tangible. Real grief is being felt. What everyone needs now is not more dialogue, but more discernment. My thoughts and prayers are also with you, members of CRPC: I pray that you’d be encouraged, comforted, and consoled by Jesus’s grace to know that his “grace is sufficient for you,” and that his “power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
What’s deeply saddening, though, in the aftermath, is seeing some use this troubling situation as an indictment on Tullian’s ministry as a whole. Indeed, CRPC is not unfamiliar with turbulence, as Tullian’s initial transition into the senior pastor role was not without its fair share of calumny. Notwithstanding that, though, the influx of attention Tullian has brought to God’s gospel of grace is something that transcends even this circumstance — it transcends us all!
What’s essential to learn, even through tearful incidents like this, is that we’re not the point. God’s message of love, forgiveness, mercy, and pardon to the desperate and destitute sinner through the she’d blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, is an unfailing, undying message that rises above the scandal, irrespective of the gravity of the collapse. The gospel is timeless, changeless, greater than me or you or any of it’s truest disciples. As Paul Tripp says, it’s the message that “the life we couldn’t live, he lived for us. The death we should’ve died, he died for us. The new life we need, he gives to us.” All throughout the Scriptures, we are given instance after instance, example after example, of God working through brokenness, through difficulty, through disaster to shine a brilliant, dazzling light on his redeeming, rescuing grace. That’s what the whole Bible is about: God working through cracked and crushed, fractured and fragmented, bruised and broken sinners to bring glory and honor to himself.
What we must all remember is that none of us are above the basest of sins. The same miserable, doleful nature of wickedness and darkness dwells within each of our hearts. Charles Spurgeon’s words should ring loud and repeatedly:
If we had right views of ourselves, we should judge none too base to be reclaimed . . . If we were more like Christ, we should be more ready to hope for the hopeless, to value the worthless, and to love the depraved.
If we’d only realize how wretched we truly are, we wouldn’t be so quick to malign those that are grieving — we wouldn’t libel those who’ve stumbled — rather, we’d come alongside the exhausted and weary comrades in the faith and entreat them with graciousness and gentleness to the road of recovery. As the apostle appeals, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” (Gal 6:1 NLT)
I’m (You’re) not above a catastrophic collapse. In the aftermath, I pray that we’d all sense the presence of God’s Comforter in a very palpable way. I pray that he would use even this incident to bring glory to his name and his grace. I pray that we’d be imparted with his forgiving spirit and be given the grace to pick up the pieces and realize that the gospel marches on — the symphony of grace continues its refrain. I pray that we’d all have honest views of ourselves, and never forget the truth that “none are beyond the reach of redemption . . . let none stand back as if their sins were too great to be forgiven, or their case too bad to be cured. Jesus is an Advocate who never lost a cause — a Physician who never lost a patient — his blood cleanseth from all sin, and through him the door of heaven stands open to publicans, harlots, the chief of sinners.”“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him,” but — praise his name! — “he has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Dan 9:9; Col 1:13–14)
Charles Spurgeon, The Saint and His Saviour: The Progress of the Soul in the Knowledge of Jesus (Houston: Christian Focus, 1989), 34–35.
Thomas Guthrie, Man and the Gospel (New York: Robert Carter & Bros., 1866), 205–6, 443.