Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham, believes that too many people today are looking for approval and finding their worth in all the wrong places.
Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church)
The preacher, who recently released his new book, "It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News," said he's concerned with many individuals' search for love and meaning, particularly when it comes to those who "feel some measure of bondage" in how they derive that meaning.
"I'm not on some campaign against trying to better yourself in some way, shape or form. If you feel unhealthy and out of shape, I'm all for eating better and exercising," he said. "It's not a campaign against that at all. Where I get more concerned and where I want people to find relief is this underlying assumption that in order to get love, I have to make myself more lovable."
In order to gain acceptance, worth and value, Tchividjian said too many people feel the need to make themselves more worthy, rather than placing their value and worth in Jesus Christ.
"As a Christian, that's where the gospel really starts to seem like good news. … all of the approval we look for in a thousand places and people is already ours," he said. "It allows me and frees me to live my life from approval rather than for it — and that's really a game changer, because it allows me to enjoy my hobbies and work and enjoy my relationships without needing those hobbies to validate my existence."
Tchividjian said that it's important to recognize that we live in a "very conditional world" and that getting a good job, for instance, could mean getting into good schools and making all the right decisions along the way. But while everything in life is marked by conditionality, the preacher said that God's love is unconditional and is, thus, counter-intuitive.
That doesn't mean, though, that Christians aren't residing in the real world, with Tchividjian noting the difficulties that some will face living under conditional structures.
"I think it's fair to expect that the world demands certain things from us before we get certain things," he said. "We are broken people working in a broken world."
But Tchividjian believes that placing one's value in the right place is the key to personal fulfillment.
"Once my heart was gripped by the fact that God loves us unconditionally whether I succeed or fail — whether I perform at the highest level or lowest — that frees me … from having to do something great before feeling validated and justified," he said. "All of the meaning that I crave I've already been given by God. Now that helps me deal with not getting what I want to get from the world."
Failure shouldn't leave people feeling as though they've been robbed of meaning, Tchividjian said.
"When we fail or we get rejected it really does really sort of reveal where we are locating our worth and our value," he cautioned. "It's an expose of our own idolatry."
Tchividjian also spoke about social media and the power it gives everyone to be "a little bit famous," noting that he believes that it is an extremely beneficial tool, but one that also comes along with some caveats.
"It's very deceptive, because I've never seen anyone unhappy on Facebook. Everyone's day is amazing, everyone's marriage is happy, everyone's vacation is out of this world," he said. "It's like the comedian Chris Rock says, 'When people first meet you they're not meeting you, they're meeting their representative.'"
Tchividjian said that managing and manufacturing images of oneself can be "debilitating" and exhausting.
"We feel the pressure to always put our best foot forward. To wear masks and pretend we're better than we are," he said. "It creates some of this unreal reality."
The preacher is hoping that "It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News," a devotional that reminds readers that the "gospel is good news," will help people realize that their true worth and value should be found in Christ.