One of the points in my sermon this past Sunday was how being a growing church means that we must be committed to speaking the truth to one another in love. We simply will not be able to grow spiritually if we do not have people in our lives who help us see when our lives are out of step with the gospel. I preached on how the gospel tells me that my sin is real and so there is no sense in denying it, but that it is also forgiven and so there is no sense in feeling condemned by it. What I did not anticipate on Sunday was that I was going to need to personally apply these truths to myself today.
I know that many of you are not on Facebook, but also that many of you are. Yesterday, I posted some things in reaction to President Trump’s temporary ban of refugees from certain parts of the world. This issue hits close to home for me as I worked a lot with refugees in college and heard some of the most horrendous stories. There are faces and names that are forever etched on my heart and bring tears to my eyes even as I am writing this now. Also, I have friends who have family in Syria and so that specific situation is personal to me as well.
However, through the help of faithful friends, I have come to realize that I allowed my personal experience with refugees to overly influence the strength with which I wrote my posts. Below is an incredibly gracious rebuke from one of my best friends. I want to share this with you, because it is this kind of rebuke that I believe really puts into practice what it means to speak the truth in love.
Hey man... As you know, I am grateful for your passion and that you are not scared to speak out on important and sensitive issues. I don't have time to really parse the words from some of your Facebook posts, but, (as you've asked me to do with you before), I'm going to just call it like I see it.
Your posts provided some very good and thought provoking points and questions. However, it seemed that at times you were speaking with a lack of grace and love. As you sought to be very loving and understanding in your communication to non-believers your reaction to Christians seemed to at times veer more harsh, impatient, stereotyping, attacking and accusing. I didn't hear the same shepherding heart that was just talking to me about being patient with less mature believers and giving for the Spirit to work with those who are living in ignorance or folly and not rush to condemn.
I'm all about strong words, especially on clear biblical issues, and certainly about the gospel truth itself. But in some of this application gray margin (when moving from social to political, from individual to responsibility to national responsibility) going Driscoll doesn't always do the message you bring a service. As well as making it appear at times that your personal experience is a conversational "trump card" (excuse the pun) that neuters those that have a different opinion. Sometimes the volume or authority you try to speak in overwhelms any attempt you make to mince words, qualify what you say or any dose of humility you may be trying to infuse.
There didn't seem to be much room for discussion or different perspectives as your words were often not season with grace. I think when that happens your message can be lost. One of the things I appreciate about you is how you have much love for the least of these, but your posts seemed low on the love when addressing Christians whom we are called to strive to bear with and have unity. Typically you do a great job in person and in your sermons of balancing this. I’m not sure why there was this lack of balance. Perhaps were rushed in your response, maybe it was just the forum of FB, or maybe you were so focused on talking / caring for one audience that you lost the other. I’m not sure, but please take some time to consider.
So summing it up, some of your statements did not represent the best things of the man that I know, so I felt that I needed to say something.
This is the act of a good friend. I love being corrected like this. I really do. First, because it shows me that someone loves me enough to speak the truth to me. Second, because it protects me from me. The Bible says that our hearts are deceitful and therefore we should have a built in suspicion of ourselves. Yet, because it is our hearts that our deceitful, it is hard for us to see our failings in ourselves. And so I can’t grow if I don’t have faithful brothers and sisters in my life who can help me grow.
Do you see how this person didn’t attack me, but made their wisdom sweet? At times I felt like I was being encouraged more than rebuked. Yet, their point was still clear. God’s grace at work in my life was highlighted and so I didn’t feel crushed. But the correction was still clear and so my heart was stung and moved to repentance.
For anyone who might have been hurt or offended by my posts, I am sincerely sorry. I would be eager to hear from you and make this apology more personal.
Finally, for the sake of clarity, please know that my desire yesterday was not to argue that having open borders is something the gospel commands. I have personal opinions about open borders, but they are personal opinions and not ones that I would attach authority to. What I meant to convey yesterday was that loving others is something that the gospel commands. Therefore we must remember, whatever we think the best solution is for caring for refugees, that these are real people with real stories and we must consider how we can show them real love. I’m sure there are a wide variety of opinions amongst us about what would be the most loving thing for all involved as we think about loving both the refugee and our fellow American citizens. Let’s just make sure that we keep love the issue.
I love you Christ Church!