Jonathan Merritt on Why He Forgives Mark Driscoll and Why Every Christian Should Too
byÂ Jonathan Merritt
Well, weâ€™ve just concluded another week in American evangelicalism. Which is to say, weâ€™ve witnessedÂ another Mark Driscoll blunder.
This has for sure been a rough year for theÂ Seattle-based mega-church preacher. He wasÂ accused of plagiarizingÂ in multiple books, which resulted inÂ a tepid but public apology. He embarrassed himself byÂ crashing a conferenceÂ hostedÂ by another pastor, John MacArthur. AndÂ former staffÂ and church members spoke out about the oppressive environment at Driscollâ€™s Mars Hill Church. These gaffesÂ join aÂ legion of others. After the flood of criticism he received, DriscollÂ quit social mediaÂ and has retreated from the public eye.
But another shoe dropped last week when Christian author Matthew Paul Turner posted aÂ series of discussion board commentsÂ by Driscoll under the alias â€śWilliam Wallace IIâ€ť in 2000. Driscollâ€™s opinions, though 14 years old, were nothing short of vile. In addition to being expletive-laden, they were misogynistic and homophobic (and I do not use either term lightly).
In response to the furor his comments created, Pastor DriscollÂ apologizedÂ yet again, saying his statements were â€śplain wrongâ€ť and he â€śremains embarrassedâ€ť by them.Â His apology was predictably rejected by the growing gaggle of Driscoll critics, aÂ group that has becomeÂ evermore vampirical in their thirst for Driscollâ€™s blood. But I accept Driscollâ€™s apology and other Christians should too.
Iâ€™m reminded of an occasion where the theÂ saltiest and stubbornestÂ disciple, Peter,Â askedÂ Jesus a most pointed question: â€śLord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?â€ť
Jesus answered Peter, â€śI tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.â€ť
Any New Testament scholar can tell you that Jesus was not merely upping the limit of times one must accept the apologies of a repeat offender. He was not saying that on the 491st offense, we are free to toss our brother or sister overboard and pray for a shark attack. No, Jesus was obliterating the ceiling on Christian forgiveness.
The way ofÂ Jesus is not the most practical, desired, or cathartic path.Â Â But it is an endlessly forgiving one.
Some reading this will be flabbergasted that I would accept the apology ofÂ a serialÂ abuser like Mark Driscoll. Save your fury for someone without myÂ publishing history. I have more than a dozen articles reporting and commenting on the deplorableÂ actions of Mark Driscoll in the last year alone. So type your little heart out in the comment section. I wonâ€™t read it.
When Christians have grown so bitter towardÂ someone that we canâ€™t even accept their apologies, something has gone seriously wrong. IfÂ Driscoll had ignored these comments, his critics would have excoriated him for his silence. But when heÂ says he is sorry, they criticize him still.Â We must refuse to create lose-lose situations for each other where oneÂ is damned if theyÂ apologize and damned if theyÂ donâ€™t.
SOURCE: Religion News Service
Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and has published more than 1000 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Atlantic, and National Journal. He is author of Â “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined”Â andÂ “A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.”Â He resides in Brooklyn.