Mark Driscoll’s recent troubles have been well-documented. It seems that he is facing the consequences of his behavior and mode of discourse over the last decade or so.
A few weeks ago, Jonathan Merritt wrote about forgiving Mark Driscoll and then several days ago about not celebrating his downfall.
I think that Merritt’s impulses are good ones. There’s nothing good about delighting in someone else’s suffering, even if self-inflicted. And it’s destructive to hold on to bitterness and to refuse to forgive.
Yet I don’t think that the responses Merritt suggests are appropriate.
Forgiveness is something that must take place between parties that have a relationship or some kind or share a covenant bond. It is up to Mars Hill Church members and staff to decide whether or not to forgive Driscoll. It isn’t up to me or Jonathan Merritt or anyone else who isn’t part of that church.
Further, the alternatives of whether or not to delight in my enemies’ calamity likewise confuse the situation. Mark Driscoll isn’t my enemy. He isn’t anything to me other than a well-known media figure in Seattle.
I think that a more appropriate biblical response to much of what has happened is found in Proverbs where the young person is urged to observe and to learn. “Critically examine and observe carefully what happens when a person behaves like this.” “Take note of the lazy person and see how he has nothing to eat in times of need.” “Look at the ant and learn from how it stores up for when there is nothing.” “Identify the angry man and do not associate with him. Those who hang around him become angry, too.”
The father in Proverbs exhorts his son to develop wisdom by clear-eyed observation of life. He teaches him to sharpen his skills in critical analysis, taking note of what happens to people who act honorably and dishonorably, people who are generous and those who are stingy. How do things go for them? How might it have been otherwise?
Watch carefully and learn.
Without having destructively critical spirits, we can critically examine the dynamics of the situation and learn from what we see. We can quietly but closely observe how Mark Driscoll’s behavior and speech has affected others and learn from the consequences.
What happens over the short term and long term to people (ministry leaders and pastors) who act like Mark Driscoll did? What are the dynamics of the celebrity pastor and the high profile ministry? Is it inevitable that they are internally destructive while outwardly impressive?
I think Merritt’s motives are right for commending forgiveness and rebuking a self-assured and smugly celebratory spirit. But the postures that Merritt suggests are misguided. To follow them would be to miss a good opportunity to learn.
I won’t be exulting in Mark Driscoll’s trouble nor do I need to forgive him. But I’ll quietly watch and store away some lessons from what I see.