Repentance is good. It really, really is. Sometimes public repentance is necessary. The general principle is that the scope of the repentance should fit the scope of the sin. But people tend to respond in one of two unhelpful ways when a public sin is exposed. The first response is wicked glee – rejoicing in the public exposure, downfall, or humiliation in a way that violates the principles of I Corinthians 13 love. The other unhelpful response is sinful defensiveness – self-protection that denies the beauty and value of self-examination that leads to sincere repentance and reparation. Sometimes we are defensive of ourselves this way. Sometimes we are defensive of others, thinking we are doing them good. But if there is real sin that they need to address, our defensiveness of another is not love at all.
I think we all know the problems with wicked glee at someone’s downfall. But I want to make a case from Scripture on why the defensiveness I describe is equally, if not more, detrimental to a life of discipleship in Christ. The main issue in such defensiveness in light of allegations of sin is that it is a SECULAR COPING MECHANISM. It reflects a worldly philosophy of exultation and fall that does not acknowledge the radical change that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection have brought us.
What if we take any discussion of public sin by Christian leaders, and I’m thinking particularly of Mark Driscoll, out of our world’s system of thought, which truly does often seek to destroy public personalities through exposure of short comings, and place it squarely in a gospel context? Could it not be that some Bible believing, Christ loving Christians call someone else to repentance because they actually think repentance is good and helpful? Here are a few verses to build that context for the purpose of this blog post.
Galatians 6:1 6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Luke 17:3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,
Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
No matter what the world’s view of shame and condemnation, the Bible gives us a different paradigm in Christ. Repentance leads to life! In Christ, we do not steal life when we encourage others to confess, repent, and repair, even if they are big name leaders. The leaders in the history of Christianity with the greatest falls are not the ones who confessed, repented, and repaired but those who did NOT until the walls came crashing in around them. The greatest thing any ministry leader can do to AVOID being destroyed in ministry is to examine themselves and listen to their critics, doing so in Christ, in whom there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
We need to clearly distinguish between a call for a leader to repent in light of a public sin and a hateful longing to see someone destroyed. Sure, apart from Christ, many do delight to see the destruction of a celebrity Christian leader. But in Christ, we have a different paradigm. Repentance is life-giving. Correction is beautiful. Seeking to repair a wrong gives a glorious testimony to the Gospel. And calls to repent from one gospel believer to another are not persecution! We have a different paradigm altogether in Christ.
With all that said, despite statements this week from Tyndale publishers, there is a great deal more that Pastor Mark Driscoll has not addressed concerning plagiarism. I am particularly concerned about references in Death by Love and Real Marriage to Dan Allender’s material from Wounded Hearts, which was the primary resource used at Mars Hill in the early Grace Groups which addressed sexual abuse around 2002 – 2007. As I pointed out last year in Our Review of Real Marriage, Real Marriage talks of a time at Mars Hill when real people were involved with the Driscolls and horribly sinned against in the midst of Mark’s angry season with his wife that he recounts in the book. The way the Driscolls treat Allender’s book is tied to the way they treated the elder that organized the original groups dealing with sexual abuse in which Grace Driscoll first found her voice on the subject. They built upon both’s work while erasing them from their church history. Recognizing the plagiarism is just a drop in an already overflowing bucket. It will bless the ministry of Mars Hill to examine how that bucket got so full and what it’s cost those around Mark who were cut off by him during this angry season.
There are even bigger issues of citation in Who Do You Think You Are? These three books are published through Thomas Nelson, not Tyndale which released a statement this week. I wrote Thomas Nelson a few times privately, hoping they would address this, but I have not heard anything from them over the last 2 weeks.
But, again, the plagiarism is just a drop in the bucket compared to the “throwing loyal friends under the bus” that Jared Wilson mentions in this article and that Mark himself jokes about during the same time he was destroying the reputation of elders that had stood beside him for years. Mark has thrown his elders, deacons, and assistants under the bus for years. It means little to the average reader until 1) either YOU have been run over by Mark’s bus or 2) you watch other dear Christians run over, while you are powerless to ease their pain.
I wasn’t thrown under the bus personally. I thank God for that, for I can then point these things out without fighting my own personal bitterness against my own personal wounds. However, I live in a city full of casualties of Mark’s bus. The sin against them is real. The need to publicly and privately repent and repair is real. And it is not gossip to draw public attention to it.
Paul writes this to the Thessalonian believers. It is what I would write to the leaders at Mars Hill who need to deal with this if they were reading.
9 For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:9-10 ESV)
I ministered at Mars Hill in a blameless way (purely by the grace of God). I also left Mars Hill in a blameless way, taking great care to hand off all of my responsibilities in women’s ministry to others in the church without gossip or rancor, in the hopes that Mark would repent and repair with those he had wounded without a loud public clamor calling him out. Six years later, that has not happened. Though I do not like writing this article, I am at peace in the path I’ve walked to get to this point.