When Mark Driscoll chose to pick a fight with the specific voices in the emerging church at the SBC conference, I really didn’t want to get involved. What would drive someone to do something like that when it wasn’t even what he was there to speak on? I did listen to his message for the sake of being informed and did comment. I even drafted a a lengthy response for this blog. But I never could hit publish with my response because I always felt like it was stepping into a fight I didn’t want to engage. I thought about it. The bully had swung and missed and I kept wondering what was the real reason for this urge to swing back. The more I thought about it, the more I kept wondering what the issue was in the first place.
I for one, and I’m sure many others, loved the wink idea as a response. Many of you got that it just wasn’t the fight we were interested in walking into. Brian McLaren and Rob Bell simply didn’t comment. Doug simply accepted his boot from the next SBC conference. Love it all.
The moment that some think is going to be really, really important, left me wanting and wondering if this is the best that we as a body of Christ can really come up with? Will this be a defining moment in the emerging church? I actually think so but for a very different reason than most. I for one think that this will be a moment Mark will regret what he did at some point in the future. Not because he was right or wrong, but because I think at some point in the future he’ll see that he got derailed.
And the reason I say this is because MoreThanMine posted a recap that included my comments. And as I was reading through the comments I made again, I recognized that at the end of his 1 hour twenty minute talk he spent about ten minutes talking about new forms and being incarnational. I really like what he said in these ten minutes. Other people liked it too.
And I realized that Mark had the unique opportunity to really inform a body of believers that would tend to be on the outside fo the emerging church, and to talk more about incarnational and open so many minds at the SBC. This is one of the hearts of the emerging church. How do we embody Christ in our everyday lives. He had the opportunity to provide positive steps forward for everyone who was interested in the emerging church conversation. This would have been so affirming and would have given everyone something to really think about. Instead of spending 50 minutes critiquing the church, he ended up throwing in incarnational as almost an aside.
And then I realized what the enemy does so well. He invites us to go after our own brothers. The enemy invites us to take the first swing because if he can get us to fight each other, we’re not fighting him. We become the enemy, and he finds his amusement from the grandstands.
I think about the allure of the word heresy. It has so much power, so much force and weight, It also has so much potential to make me look good. The crowd is on my side. If I’ve called someone a heretic I must know something they don’t or I wouldn’t possibly say THAT. The temptation to swing first is so present because it sure makes us look so good in the process. The enemy even gives us a bright, shiny banner with the words, “In the name of God,” written all over it. Who is going to argue when we’ve got (g)od on our side.
But, If I use the word heresy on someone, even for good reasons, it invites the other to defend themselves, to swing back. And if they do, now we have a fight that divides us. And if you and I aren’t speaking to each other, we’re not as strong. I’ve actually lost my brother who can’t watch my back. I’ve actually lost relationship with someone who can remind me what my Heavenly Father looks like.
All of this makes me realize there might have been a deeper wisdom to Jesus inviting us to, “Turn the other cheek.” How many times have we read that verse assuming it was only our enemy. Maybe Jesus knew we’d need that verse for our own brothers (and sisters) too, for the one’s that hurt us within the church.
The reality is that my brother is going to miss the mark sometimes. But if I go to him in secret, holding his dignity in love, he’ll know I really am his brother. I can listen to why he thinks this or that and say, “Oh I get it…but have you thought about this.” It’s just between the two of us. Jesus knew that love was the only response that worked. In a mission of restoration and reconciliation, I can’t do that if there are blows thrown.
Maybe Jesus knew that the moment someone strikes us is the moment we are being invited to destroy ourselves by striking back or running away. When someone hit us was actually the most defining moment of our lives. It was in this moment that life was demanding an answer to who we really are. Are we really the children of a living God?
You see the reason I think this will be a defining moment in the future is because love will win out in this one. The emerging church body will stand up and say, we don’t need to fight to win. We already have.
So my response to Mark is sorrow. My hope is that you will someday find the best in your brothers because that will be the best in you. That will be what your Heavenly Father is looking for in you.