Lord knows I am no fan of Mark Driscoll. For some years now, I’ve been chagrined at his approach to ministry, his bully-like posture and evidence that he has treated staff disrespectfully and with disregard. Though I think he has contributed some good things to contemporary evangelicalism, it was difficult for me to see past the stains.
My disdain for him only grew when plagiarism charges emerged and there was no apology. The final straw came when it was discovered that the questionably ethically tactics were employed to market his book…and there was still defense. Or at least, that is what was portrayed in the articles I read. And I was angry. Angry that the celebrity status had apparently insulated this man from suffering the repercussions of his actions. Angry that so many still defended him. Angry that he was getting away with it.
Then he apologized publicly and acknowledged his error. He volunteered to take some action to rectify the situation. And he put up a mirror for us to look at. The mirror reflected something back that raises the question of how we treat the repentant and examine the attitudes of our own heart.
Driscoll’s apology shined the light on my own history of transgressions. It put up a mirror to those extended periods that I acted unseemingly, especially a 13 year rebellious period away from the Lord. I’m a person who battles many regrets in life and wish I had done many things differently. I even recall times when those around me tried to bring things to my attention but I was so seeped in my own way that I blew them off. Even when I repented in 1999 from my rebellion away from him, I still had stuff that wasn’t dealt with, ways that I operated in and unaware of its stains on my Christian walk and rebuffing attempts at exposure and correction.
But God who is rich in mercy, who doesn’t give up on his own and continues his sanctifying work through the Holy Spirit opens our eyes when we trip up over our own blindness, continues to deal with us as sons and daughters. He’s done that with me. In fact, one of the things that has made seminary so personally trying is the clarity that I’ve gotten on the root causes and impetus of repeated sin patterns in my life. Patterns I wish I could do over. And patterns that are breaking up because of the Lord’s loving hand of discipline and exposure.
I’m sure there are more areas in my life that will be dealt with because I’m not perfect and most likely still have many blind spots. But through the Lord’s discipline, love and care, I’m reminded that He gently reaches us at the right time and despite ourselves. He turns wayward hearts around and melts hardness into softness for Him and His ways.
I don’t know if Driscoll is sincere. Nor do I know all the details of what has actually transpired behind the scenes. But I do know that it is possible to behave badly for a time, unaware of how bad it really is. I do know that when we get how unbecoming our behavior has really been, we generally want the benefit of the doubt. Yes, sometimes that happens because of exposure but that’s ok. Because I do know that Driscoll is in need of the same mercy that I want for myself and I bet you do too. Driscoll is no less deserving of the grace that we recipients of that none of us deserve in the place.
When the mirror of error and repentance shines on our attitudes what will it be – mercy or judgment? Sometimes I think we opt for judgment when we fail to see the mercy that all of us need. James says “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13).
Is this not what Paul commended to the Corinthian church? The brother that had been kicked out of fellowship because of his indiscretions with his step-mother in 1 Corinthians 5 at Paul’s stern commandment, faced the same kind of merciless attitudes that we may want to treat Driscoll. Apparently, even after repentance the Corinthian church was treating this wayward as one who did not deserve to be back in fellowship with them, as one who still needed to be held accountable for his sin. Paul wrote;
Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure – not to put it too severely – to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg of you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)
Whatever Driscoll has done and whoever he may have hurt, Paul’s words about the Corinthian situation should sober us about our attitudes towards a repentant brother. He may not do it perfectly, but then neither do we. Nor do we rarely change overnight. And that’s why we need the Driscoll mirror or others who behave badly but then seem to have a change of heart. Because it shines the light on our own attitudes towards grace and mercy and our continual need for them through the redemption and forgiveness we have in Christ.
As Ray Ortlund puts it in this post
Everyone who feels the power of the gospel will also feel that a penitent man deserves another chance. That man should be held to his professed repentance — but gently, with encouragement, with support, with prayer, with every positive expectation of beautiful outcomes. And if we don’t cut him that slack, we are the ones whose turn it is to repent.