by Mary Love Koons
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Although this is a commonly quoted verse, I am not sure we fully understand the implications that it brings into our lives. The thought of weakness is so counterintuitive to a culture that covets the mark of perfection. While this verse does not directly define grace, it points our attention to the necessity of a right view of grace so that we may have a right view of self. From the moment that our alarm sounds in the morning to the minute we lay our heads down at night, we race through a day on the treadmill of performance and pretending. Through our performance, we minimize the holiness of God, allowing it to be something that we believe we can grasp. Through our pretending, we minimize our own sin, convincing ourselves and others that we are something we are not. These idols cause us to shrink our view of the cross and base our righteousness on our own ability. This verse begs us to revisit the meaning and the truths of grace. In his book, One Way Love, Tullian Tchividjian gives Paul Zahl’s definition of grace:
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.” 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.
If this definition is true, and I believe it is, then we have nothing to prove. We have no qualifications to meet and no expectations to supersede. The treadmill on which we are running is self-inflicted. It is our innate desire to be worthy, to be good enough, to meet the mark. As Tchividjian says in his book,
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’ day receive [H]is most compassionate welcome. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love.
We no longer have to suffer under the weight of conditionality. We are free to be weak, we are free to not be good enough, and we are free to rest in the grace of our Father. We can surrender our desires for perfection to the One who is perfect. We can stand in awe that we have received an undeserving grace. Our Father is not asking us to run on the same treadmill that our culture is. We find our call in the words of the hymn, “Come ye sinners poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore. If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.”
As we go throughout today, I invite you to step off of the treadmill and stand in awe of this one-way love, to stand with a thankful heart that through our conflicts, hardships, and weariness, we have a Father who is giving us strength in our weakness. As Tchividjian writes, we must preach these truths to ourselves each morning:
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.
We are free from the pressure of having it all together. These truths allow us to partake in real Christian fellowship as we bear the burdens of others and share in our own weakness rather than painting false pictures of perfection. These truths allow glory to God and not us. These truths allow the Gospel to be a leveling factor and to break down the walls we build between each other. If we truly understand a grace that negates our merit, then we will be able to move into each other’s lives and love with the love that we have been given. I hope today that we can stand in awe of the gift of one-way love.