Archives For forgiveness

Mark Driscoll Repents . . . Again

Greg Strand – March 20, 2014 3 Comments

You have probably heard or read Mark Driscoll’s letter of apology read to members and attendees of Mars Hill Church. Christianity Today commented on it by stating “Mark Driscoll Retracts Bestseller Book Status, Resets Life.”

I hesitate saying too much because this is from a distance and I was not personally wronged. However, there is a sense in which those of us who listened to, read or were influenced by Driscoll have been wronged, though in a different way with a different impact/outcome. This means a confession can be approached differently than one who is close, one who is a friend and one who has been personally hurt or offended. A general biblical principle is that repentance, confession of sin, ought to be as broad or as public as the sin. In today’s world with the many forms of communication and publications, the impact can be quite broad. Rightly, this confession began with his own church family.

Repentance is foundational to the message of Jesus: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). It is the grounded in the gospel and the basis of initiation into the kingdom. Repentance initiates one into new life in Christ and is an ongoing mark of that life. When a sinner repents, there is joy in heaven (Lk. 15:7, 10). As we live life together as brothers and sisters in Christ, as long as one repents, we are to forgive (Lk. 17:3-4). Unlike the elder brother, we are to rejoice as those in heaven over a sinner who repents rather than being stingy in our forgiveness of the repentant (Lk. 15:24-32). We must not begrudge God’s extravagant grace of giving and forgiving (cf. Matt. 20:15), which become a model for us. Even more so, it reflects true sonship since sons and daughters take their Father’s (Matt. 5:45) and Son’s (Rom. 8:29) likeness. Finally, the manner in which we love God and others, which includes repentance and forgiveness, reveals whether or not we have experienced and grasped God’s great love and forgiveness of us, because the one who has been forgiven much – which is all of us – loves much (Lk. 7:47).

In light of this biblical teaching, someone commented that Driscoll also apologized in 2007 in a sermon. That is great, in that it evidences a repentant lifestyle, at least twice. In fact, I would hope that one would not question one’s present day confession because one made a prior confession. Confession/repentance really ought to be a way of life for the Christian. In fact, the person pointing to the confession made in 2007 read that as evidence of a negative thing in Driscoll’s life; one causing him to repent again. I read and understood it in a different way – as a good thing. In fact, it raised the question about whether that was the last time he repented. Truth be told, he could probably have pointed to the day prior as having heard another confession. I am quite certain 2007 was not the last time Driscoll repented, even publicly. There ought to be evidence that he has repented numerous times since then. Repeated repentance is a good thing, a mark of a new life lived in the kingdom of God, an evidence of the gospel. This is why the first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses addressed ongoing repentance, stating, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”

I greatly appreciate Driscoll’s acknowledgement and confession. It evidences God’s grace, not just theologically, not just abstractly, not just for others, but in his own life. These sorts of things are not generally said or done apart from the Holy Spirit convicting, guiding and leading to repentance. It is, indeed, God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

Ray Ortlund wrote positively about Driscoll’s repentance as explained in “What Just Happened?” The point Ortlund makes is that Driscoll owned up and repented. That is amazing. But based on his relationship with him, it did not surprise him. What is even more amazing “is not how often he repents but how rarely other Christian leaders repent.” That is a good point and an important observation. Here is another person who commented on Driscoll’s apology, one who has been a critic. He appropriately assumes the best and voices his support.

I don’t mean to be skeptical or a cynic or to detract from Driscoll’s repentance, but I am going to make an observation that might make it sound as if I am (forgive me if it does): Why is it in so many (all?) of these instances, these decisions, conclusions and responses are initiated and generated by the person, the “celebrity?” Then, and only then, once he presents it to the board of advisors or a similar accountability group, they joyfully agree. Where were they before? Had they been completely blind to these issues previously? (Anyone who has followed this at all from a distance could have written this list Driscoll included in his letter of apology. Those more closely related could probably have included even more.) Had they remained silent? Had they addressed it only to be rebuffed? Though I celebrate with what I read, the true test of repentance will be changes that follow, i.e. fruit-bearing in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8), which I trust will be true and manifest.

One of the true tests of humility is to listen and submit to that group of elders or board of advisers and accountability even before I see something in my own life. The reason I have them in my life is to help me to see those issues I cannot or will not see on my own. In these situations, the “celebrity” often becomes doubly untouchable in that he is determining his own life direction and that those to whom he is to be accountable, those who are to be helping him, often simply say what he wishes anyway, a sort of echo of his wishes and desires. This does not just rest on the person, the pastor or “celebrity,” but it is also the responsibility of the elders or board of advisers who also become culpable. It may be fitting for them to repent as well.

Another interesting thing about this is that Driscoll says he is following his pastor, the Lord Jesus. This is true. The Lord Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of our souls (1 Pet. 5:4), the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20) and He pastors through the Word. Now, He leads through the Other, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16). But this understanding and approach is lacking because it is not just “me and Jesus.” The Lord Jesus is our Head, and we submit to His authority by submitting to the Word. The Holy Spirit illumines that Word and convicts us by that Word and transforms us into the likeness of the Son. As we come short, He convicts us (Jn. 16:8) and leads us to repentance. But here is what is important, vital, and yet missing. This submission happens in the context of the local church in which there is a God-ordained structure of elders and others.

What about us? Is repentance true of us? Is repentance a mark of our lives, an evidence of living a life in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27)? Do we need to initiate all repentance and change, or can others speak into those issues in our lives? Do we have ears to hear and hearts to respond?

Having written this, it is time for me to repent: I confess this is something I know better than I live. This is, I confess, something I have not always or often lived well in my own life. But I desire to, which gives me hope – hope in the gospel because one of the evidences of it is repentance. I am thankful for God’s kindness.

One final thought. It is much easier to repent in this way to everyone (in general) and no one (in particular) than it is to my wife and those closest to me, those who know me and my sins better than I know them myself.

Earlier this week I posted about the panel who responded to the question about rap music and rap artists and the many responses from those who appropriately took issue with them.

A number of the panelists have publicly apologized for their responses. Just as it was important to say something about the sinful comments made, it is also important to include their confessions here.

Often many will point out the wrongs stated or done, which is appropriate. But then once a rebuke has been made there is little to no follow up, even if those who did wrong attempt to make it right. It is true that controversy and polemics (which is necessary) create interest and traffic/readership.

However, if and when there is a retraction, a restatement, repentance, that is also important to note. If the initial response reflected sin, the response following the exhortation manifests the gospel.

I have read three apologies which I include below. There is much I could say, but it is best to let these individual’s words stand on their own with no further comment. I will say this: I am encouraged.

Geoff Botkin, “An Apology

I need to apologize for the unintended offense and confusion of my comments on disobedient cowardice. I certainly do not believe that all of today’s Christian rappers are cowardly. My most sincere apologies go to anyone out there who was hurt by my strong language. While I do hold concerns about the use and misuse of rap, my words were not directed at any particular artist. My greater concern is for the broad cultural conformity and compromise that is not limited to reformed rap.

Scott T. Brown, “Please Forgive Me

During the panel discussion on rap I should have engaged such a controversial subject as this with greater discernment, explicit scriptural grounding, clarity, definition of terms (like “rap”) and precision that comes from a full grasp of the subject. These were lacking in the rap discussion. The very question itself lacked clarity and nuance which opened the door to the misrepresentations common to the broad brush. In framing the question, I failed to distinguish between the use of music in worship compared to simply listening to music. We failed to distinguish between the various expressions of the artists. I failed to correct a panelist who made an unsavory comment. Panel discussions, off the cuff are useful for certain things, but to use a surprise question to a panel to engage a broader audience on such a complex controversial topic as musical genres they may not have been knowledgeable of was unwise. I did not engage this topic with the required care. There were moments where it lacked the brotherly tone that is essential for our critiques within the body of Christ. In at least these senses, it was unworthy of our Lord. Please forgive me.

Joel Beeke, “Christian Rap and Public Apologies

Recently I was asked to participate in a panel discussion at a Reformed Worship conference. In that discussion the panelists were asked to address the subject of Christian rap music (which I took to mean rap music primarily in the context of a local church worship service). To my regret, I spoke unadvisedly on an area of music that I know little about. It would have been far wiser for me to say nothing than to speak unwisely. Please forgive me. I also wish to publicly disassociate myself from comments that judged the musicians’ character and motives.

 

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Greg Strand – October 23, 2013 Leave a comment

In the early to mid-1990s, Rwanda experienced an unbelievable genocide. There had been significant ethnic tension between the Hutus (85% of the population) and the Tutsis (14% of the population). When the Hutus came to power, they remembered the years of oppressive rule by the Tutsis.

Living with a spirit of revenge, not forgiveness, and fearing the minority Tutsis, the Hutus conducted a mass slaughter of the Tutsis.  As noted by the United Human Rights Council, “In the weeks after April 6, 1994, 800,000 men, women, and children perished in the Rwandan genocide, perhaps as many as three quarters of the Tutsi population. At the same time, thousands of Hutu were murdered because they opposed the killing campaign and the forces directing it.” This represented about 20% of the nation’s population!

In the midst of this atrocity, and the decimation of an ethnic people and a church, God raised up a man and a ministry to address the needs. In 1994 Dr. Celestin Musekura was overwhelmed by the genocide. More specifically, he was deeply concerned because 70% of Rwandan pastors had been killed or were forced into exile. There was both a loss of life and a loss of leadership in the church to address the aftermath of this hatred. And he knew that apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ that would allow one to forgive not get even, there would be no hope for his people or his country. He founded the ministry of the African Leadership And Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM, Inc.) specifically to address the crisis of Christian leadership in the African churches. He continues to serve as the president to this day.

Musekura was recently interviewed about these events. He recounts what happened during these days, and the days that followed. I was especially struck by his response to the question asked toward the end of the interview: “What do we  as evangelicals need to learn from your experiences about the meaning of equality and forgiveness?” With a commitment to biblical truth and a life lived based on this truth in the midst of horrendous atrocities, Musekura answered (I have added headings),

First, Divisions Are Problematic

Even though you don’t have the tribes of Hutus and Tutsis, you have dividing things that divide the Americans. . . . Whether it’s race—black, white or yellow, or whatever—you have those tendencies that divide us – brings us to be against someone. So that is a big problem for Christians because as we in Africa get divided on tribe, in America you get divided on other issues.

So the first thing that you need to learn is anything that divides us against them, anything that divides us and separates us from the other group, that is already a problem.

Second, Forgiveness Consists of Giving Up the Right to be Right

The second lesson is, forgiveness does not have to be genocidal, the forgiveness that you can learn from us is that sense of giving up the right to be right

One of the biggest challenges, one of the biggest problems for Americans is the sense of justice. And the sense of justice triumphs over the sense of forgiveness. And so we always have the tenet that, no, they get what they deserve. But if God would say, “You get what you deserve,” you and I would not be here.

So how can we as Christians in America learn to forgive, to give up even our right to be right? Because that’s the weakness of American Christianity, is I want to be right. And forgiveness means to give up the right to be right, to even pay the cost of forgiveness.

So there are issues we need to bring back to the cross and say if I am full of Christ this can be forgiven. We can work on these relationships. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven.

Third, Forgiveness Is Not a Choice But a Command

And so, the third lesson is that forgiveness is not a choice for us Christians. For us evangelicals, forgiveness is not just a suggestion. From the biblical understanding, it is a command and is unconditional.

And so the lesson that we are learning is without forgiveness we can’t have any real community, any fellowship. Forgiveness is the only way, I would say, that builds community together, that builds families together, that brings Christians to model what it means to be Christ-like. But also – without forgiveness there is no hope.

Conclusion

So I think those three lessons are lessons that you can learn, learn together so that you don’t have to  forgive someone who murdered because anything that is against you causes hatred, anything that causes anger, bitterness, resentment – anything that causes resentment, you need to deal with it, because it can grow, it can cause the bitterness, it can cause hatred, it can cause killing.

We need to learn how to undo our bitterness, our anger and revenge and give up our right to be right so that we forgive one another as we have been forgiven.

That is what I think evangelicals need to learn – forgiveness is unconditional. It’s not a suggestion, it’s not when you feel it, it’s not a feeling, it’s a decision we make because it is a command that we forgive as we have been forgiven.

Manifestations of Pride

Greg Strand – October 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Stuart Scott, From Pride to Humility: A Biblical Perspective (Focus Publishing, 2002; an excerpt from The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective [2000]), notes some very insightful and penetrating traits of pride. I generally read, ponder and pray through this on a monthly basis.

Undergirding my prayer is the reminder of God’s response to pride and the proud: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jms. 4:6; cf. Prov. 3:34; 1 Pet. 5:5). This is important to grasp. If one is proud, God actively opposes that person. Making this personal, if I am proud, God actively opposes me.

As you read and pray through this list, ask yourself these two questions: First, what of these manifestations are in your life? Second, what pride in your life needs to be confessed?

Manifestations of Pride (pp. 6-10)

  1. Complaining against or passing judgment on God.
  2. A lack of gratitude in general.
  3. Anger.
  4. Seeing yourself as better than others.
  5. Having an inflated view of your importance, gifts and abilities.
  6. Being focused on the lack of your gifts and abilities.
  7. Perfectionism.
  8. Talking too much.
  9. Talking too much about yourself.
  10. Seeking independence or control.
  11. Being consumed with what others think.
  12. Being devastated or angered by criticism.
  13. Being unteachable.
  14. Being sarcastic, hurtful, or degrading.
  15. A lack of service.
  16. A lack of compassion.
  17. Being defensive or blame-shifting.
  18. A lack of admitting when you are wrong.
  19. A lack of asking forgiveness.
  20. A lack of biblical prayer.
  21. Resisting authority or being disrespectful.
  22. Voicing preferences or opinions when not asked.
  23. Minimizing your own sin and shortcomings.
  24. Maximizing other’s sin and shortcomings.
  25. Being impatient or irritable with others.
  26. Being jealous or envious.
  27. Using others.
  28. Being deceitful by covering up sins, faults, and mistakes.
  29. Using attention-getting tactics.
  30. Not having close relationships.

Thankfully forgiveness, healing and wholeness do not come in denial of these sins, but rather in confession of them. The confession “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” is followed by “this man went down to his house justified” (Lk. 18:13); “If we confess our sins,” is followed by “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).

The key biblical truth: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:14b).

The key biblical response: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Pet. 5:6; cf. Jms. 4:10).