“Do you want to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
For most of my life, a personal relationship with Jesus was the center of my faith. The Biblical story was summed up in a personal exchange of my sins for God’s salvation. I’d never heard of “corporate” worship let alone collective guilt or confession. Social justice didn’t seem to matter as long as I wasn’t the one who was racist or going astray.
Today, my notion of a personal relationship with Jesus has been deconstructed, it lies like a thousand Lego pieces across the table of my spirituality. Embracing my role in the world beyond a one-to-one relationship with the Divine has been difficult. It’s led me into tension: the tension of seeing systematic injustice as my problem; the tension of holding numerous theological traditions in balance; the tension of faith that is nuanced and debated because it is witnessed by more than my own eyes. I’ve found what I didn’t know I wanted: faith that exists well beyond my personal status on the divine grade sheet.
But the pendulum has swung the other way.
My struggles with some of the problems that come from a heavy focus on one’s personal relationship with God has resulted in me neglecting mine altogether. It’s like I helped plan the prom but forgot to ask my SO to go with me. My rejection of an ego-centric faith has become a hall-pass for holding God at arms-length.
Take, for instance, confession. I’ve become rather comfortable with confessing my role in oppressive and systematic injustice. Which is good. The world needs more straight, white, men who point to their towers of privilege and declare that they’re feats not of architecture brilliance but of oppression.
But I can (and do) hold such sin at arms-length. While corporate confession should involve personal grief, it’s all-too-easy for me to bypass it. I confess the oppressive nature of my white privilege on my Facebook feed, close the computer and then go on with my evening. But confessing arrogance, gluttony, and excessive drinking? Those require that I shut up then pass-up on the second taco and margarita, even if its Tuesday. It requires energy and humility; it requires that rather than face confession as a “we” I face it as just a “me.” It requires that I stand before God, alone, just me, waiting in the isolation of what I’ve done to hurt others, waiting for grace to intercede on my behalf; waiting because some fires we start together, but other times I’m the only one holding the match.
All of this feels like a drift into legalism and shame. And it goes back to the root of my frustrations with an isolated emphasis on the personal. I wish that half the time I’d spent as a teenager confessing lustful thoughts to my ‘accountability partner’ had gone toward advocating against the police brutality that took place in my hometown. I wish that I’d cared more about how gay kids in my high school were treated than whether or not I was ‘saved.’ I wish that the core teaching of Jesus dying for all my sins had been corrected prior to planting a cavity of shame deep within my own being.
But if I live in the regret of these errors, I’ll only perpetuate others. You can’t hike a trail backward, wishing you’d taken a different turn, without wandering off the path altogether.
I may vote for generous policies for the marginalized but how many vacation days do I spend in a soup kitchen?
I may call for racial reconciliation, but do I have the humility to develop deep enough relationships with people of color that my own racist tendencies might come to light?
Do I berate misogyny but value my own recognition in the workplace above that of others?
I may advocate for sexual minorities, but do I honestly wrestle with the dark corners of mysex life?
I don’t believe that my calls for reform in the church are unfounded. But I’ve thrown out the baby with the bathwater while calling myself an advocate for adoption. Neglecting my personal relationship with God quickly leads me to a faith that is directionless at best, blindly hypocritical at worst.
Grace is tension; it demands that I acknowledge the darkness around me enough to know when I’ve been liberated from it. It demands that I live in the tension of personal culpability alongside corporate confession and systematic advocacy.
I want to live in that tension; Christ calls me to that tension. It’s time to take two steps forward in terms of advocacy, but also find a way to take one step back, back to me and God, back to personal.
“My true brothers are those who rejoice for me in their hearts when they find good in me and grieve for me when they find sin. They are my true brothers, because whether they see good in me or evil, they love me still. To such as these I shall reveal what I am.”
Yesterday, I posted a blog concerning Mark Driscoll and a recent controversy with some statements he has made. Immediately following the posting, I felt convicted over the manner in which I addressed the issue. I wrote the blog in anger, and I disguised the anger in immature humor, utilizing GIFs and Despicable Me characters to make Mark Driscoll sound ridiculous. In retrospect, I realize that this not only discredits my argument and makes a mockery of a very important discussion but was downright hypocritical of me. My suspicions were confirmed by a couple friends as well as my wife who approached me about the article, asking if it was an effective way to approach the topic and, more importantly, what type of message it conveyed to non-Christians.
And so I want to sincerely apologize for the immature manner in which I addressed a disagreement I have with fellow Christian in a public forum.
I admit that I was wrong for addressing Mark Driscoll in this manner and as it was an improper way to do so. If you are a Christian reading this: do not follow my example. If you are a non-Christian reading this: I pray you understand that it was not the ideal circumstance and that I was being hypocritical in my approach. I should not have written or posted in anger or sarcasm but should have approached the topic with greater restraint, sincerity, prayer and humility. This is the primary way Christians should deal with disagreements amongst one another, not through sarcastic blog posts.
For that, for the example I set, I apologize.
(After this post has been up for a while, the previous post to which I am referring will be permanently deleted.)
So there’s that.
While I regret the manner in which I wrote that post, not all of it was bad, and I want to echo certain aspects of it here, namely that:
“Mark Driscoll is a human being and, like me, he deserves grace. … it’s easy to be a mudslinger, to throw stones and be just as guilty as Driscoll of the negative reflections on Christ’s name. Mark deserves love and care.I see him as a fallen person, just like myself. And I believe that it is possible that he has some mental issues and needs therapy. But that does not justify his abuse of authority and his blatant abuse of the name of Christ.”
What is important to know if you are reading this post, whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, is that Mark Driscoll currently holds a position of Christian leadership, many people look to him and view him as a leader and representation of Christ to the world.
While I do not want to portray Christians as a group of people who are constantly tearing each other apart, I also believe that we should constantlybe holding each other accountable, and accountability can be public. Martin Luther, after all, posted the 95 theses in a public forum; that was not a personal attack on the Pope, it was a demand for reform.
My utilization of blogging as a voice for Driscoll’s removal from leadership is not an attack on Driscoll, it is a demand for church reform. This is, obviously, all my opinion, and I state it humbly.
But for those who read Driscoll, I encourage you to read the following and click the links presented to understand what is a very important issue with a prevalent church leader:
Driscoll has proven, time and time again starting in 2000 to present day, that he falls short of the biblical standards for pastoral duties. Nationally reported controversies have featured Driscoll in a number of scandals including (but certainly not limited to):
“I thought you just apologized for this so why are you still talking about it? Why do you bring this up? The past is the past so why are you trying to tear down a Christian leader?”
Because the past is not the past; Mark Driscoll has neither apologized nor changed his ways as is clear by the numerous scandals that have littered his pastoral career.
I am not attempting to make another Christian look bad: I am concerned for the people he is leading astray.
The Bible is clear that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing, teachers who appear to teach truth but spread dangerous lies (Matt.hew 7:15). The Bible is also clear that a teacher who may have the gift of prophecy but is devoid of love is “nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2). While not everything Driscoll preaches is false, there are numerous warning flags throughout his career, as well as many instances in his teaching and words that are clearly void of Christ-like love. And Scripture is clear that the attachment of Christ’s name, the attachment of the gospel to bullying, abuse, hurt, emotional and sexual manipulation, is an abuse of the gospel message.
Driscoll may have apologized for one of his public scandals but that does not account for much of the misleading and abuse for which he should account as a church leader.
My heart is for repentance and reform in church leadership. If Mark Driscoll stepped down from leadership, took five years off and went through serious counseling and repentance then felt compelled to return to leadership, I would be the first to follow him. Jesus, after all, reinstated Peter. We would be wrong not to follow a brother after his repentance. I hope and pray this happens with Mark Driscoll.
I apologize for the immaturity in which I addressed this situation yesterday. I apologize for the lack of prudence and humility I showed in writing in sarcasm from anger. I love Mark Driscoll as a fellow brother in Christ and I hope the leadership of Mars Hill shows him love and care. I, and several other people, truly think he may have some psychological problems for which I hope he gets the treatment he needs.
But Mark Driscoll needs to be removed from pastoral leadership.
I’m sorry for the way I addressed the situation initially. But I can’t apologize for calling for reform in the church. I do not apologize for demanding more from Christian leaders and (attempting, with humility) to set the bar myself.
Today, I can join with Mark Driscoll praying with him and for him:
We repent, O God most merciful, for all our sins;
for every thought that was false or unjust or unclean;
for every word spoken that ought not to have been spoken;
and for every deed done that ought not to have been done;
We repent for every deed and word inspired by selfishness,
and for every deed and word and thought inspired by hatred.
We repent for every lustful thought and every lustful action;
for every lie; for all hypocrisy;
for every promise given but not fulfilled,
and for all slander and backbiting.
Most specially also, we repent for every action
that has brought ruin to others,
for every word and deed that has given others pain;
and for every wish that pain should befall others.
In Your unbounded mercy, we ask you to forgive us, O God,
for all these sins committed by us,
and to forgive us for our constant failures
to think and speak and act according to Your will.