Tullian Tchividjian is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He recently discovered that a high-ranking staff member in the church was guilty of engaging in marital infidelity.
I personally appreciate the explanation of how he navigated the troubled waters of such a moral crisis on a Sunday morning with his congregation.
Especially insightful is his approach to actionable discipline and restoration. He referred to it as being a “two-word church” rather than merely a “one-word church”. This brief excerpt illustrates the difference.What a balanced, mature, and wise distinction.
His illustration with the prodigal is simply priceless!
“I preached from Galatians 5:13, and among the things I emphasized and explained to our church was that we are not a one-word community (law or gospel) but a two word community (law then gospel). A law-only community responds to a situation like this by calling for the guy’s head (sadly, many churches are guilty of this). These churches lick their chops at the opportunity to excommunicate. A gospel-only community responds by saying, “We’re no better than he is, so why does he have to lose his job? After all, don’t we believe in grace and forgiveness?” A one word community simply doesn’t possess the biblical wisdom or theological resources to know how to deal with sinners in an honest, loving, and appropriate way.
Explaining that we are a law-gospel community, I showed how pastorally this means we believe God uses his law to crush hard hearts and his gospel to cure broken hearts. The law is God’s first word; the gospel is God’s final word. And when we rush past God’s first word to get to God’s final word and the law has not yet had a chance to do its deep wrecking work, the gospel is not given a chance to do its deep restorative work. Sinners never experience the freedom that comes from crying “Abba” (gospel) until they first cry “Uncle” (law).”
I illustrated this point by reminding our church that the father of the prodigal son did not fall to his knees and wrap his arms around his sons legs as the son was leaving, but as he was returning. He had been waiting, looking to the horizon in hope. When he saw his son coming home, crushed and humbled, he ran to him. But he didn’t stop him from leaving. He didn’t rescue his son from the pigsty. If we really love people and want to see them truly set free, we have to get out of God’s way and let the law do its crushing work so that the gospel can do its curing work.”