by Jonathan Merritt
Well, we’ve just concluded another week in American evangelicalism. Which is to say, we’ve witnessed another Mark Driscoll blunder.
This has for sure been a rough year for the Seattle-based mega-church preacher. He was accused of plagiarizing in multiple books, which resulted in a tepid but public apology. He embarrassed himself by crashing a conference hosted by another pastor, John MacArthur. And former staff and church members spoke out about the oppressive environment at Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church. These gaffes join a legion of others. After the flood of criticism he received, Driscoll quit social media and has retreated from the public eye.
But another shoe dropped last week when Christian author Matthew Paul Turner posted a series of discussion board comments by Driscoll under the alias “William Wallace II” in 2000. Driscoll’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 Driscoll apologized yet again, saying his statements were “plain wrong” and he “remains embarrassed” by them. His apology was predictably rejected by the growing gaggle of Driscoll critics, a group that has become evermore vampirical in their thirst for Driscoll’s blood. But I accept Driscoll’s apology and other Christians should too.
I’m reminded of an occasion where the the saltiest and stubbornest disciple, Peter, asked Jesus a most pointed question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered Peter, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”
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 of Jesus is not the most practical, desired, or cathartic path. But it is an endlessly forgiving one.
Some reading this will be flabbergasted that I would accept the apology of a serial abuser like Mark Driscoll. Save your fury for someone without my publishing history. I have more than a dozen articles reporting and commenting on the deplorable actions of Mark Driscoll in the last year alone. So type your little heart out in the comment section. I won’t read it.
When Christians have grown so bitter toward someone that we can’t even accept their apologies, something has gone seriously wrong. If Driscoll had ignored these comments, his critics would have excoriated him for his silence. But when he says he is sorry, they criticize him still. We must refuse to create lose-lose situations for each other where one is damned if they apologize and damned if they don’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 “Jesus is Better Than You Imagined” and “A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.” He resides in Brooklyn.