Brothers [and sisters], if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6.1 (NIV)
I’ve been preoccupied by Hong Kong, and finally get around to putting fingers to keyboard about matters closer to home. These last weeks mark a new life for Pastor Mark Driscoll who made a surprising appearance at a Christian conference as a listener and not as a speaker. Nevertheless, the conference put Pastor Mark on the spot and asked him to come up to say a few words. Pastor Mark had endured a fiery trial by the press and by many who felt that he had wronged him. Some had even gone to the extreme of stalking him or threatening his life. What struck me was not Pastor Mark’s story. What struck me about the video of his introduction is the way the presenter introduced Pastor Mark. When the presenter described Pastor Mark’s request to attend the conference, he said at 54 seconds into the video, “I thought that was very big of him to just come and be ministered to.”
This verse in Galatians 6.1 is part of the passage on life in the Spirit in Galatians 5-6. Usually, we think in terms of its legalistic application in the church. However, I say that this passage is not merely some kind of formulaic steps 1, 2 and 3 to restore someone. Its concern is much broader. The subsequent verses talk about arrogance and how that was detrimental to both the church and her individual members. The previous passage talks about the importance of the Spirit in maintaining in a healthy Body of Christ. The passage is really not about restoration only. It is about the Body of Christ and how it handles such cases of bitter bickering and moral issues.
How does Paul’s writing apply to what the presenter just said? Before I answer that, let me be clear to say that I feel bad that Pastor Mark has to face extreme measures against him. I disagree with a lot of his teachings and a lot of what he did. People using extreme measures to punish him are also very unchristian. I would however want to say that we must also be mindful of those victims whom he had hurt in the past and lend them a listening ear instead of brushing them off as liars as the presenter who also said after 54 seconds into the video, “Everything you read on the internet is not true”. That’s just using a straw man cliche to brush off the voice of the victims. I can’t even believe he got loads of applause for that remark. Let me answer my own question now. How does Galatians 5-6 apply to the present situation?
If Paul was not talking about individuals doing this or that only but had a ecclesiastical framework, the passage points out a clear flaw in what the presenter said. In saying that Pastor Mark is so generous to be ministered to, he’s making him a rank above the Body of Christ. He’s saying that some people are above being ministered to. They’re too good and too famous to be ministered to. This is precisely the problem that caused Pastor Mark to fall to begin with. In fact, Pastor Mark pointed out this problem in his humble little speech in the video. Evangelical celebrity culture created Pastor Mark. The evangelical culture is complicit. By further pointing out that everything on the internet being untrue (a true statement in and of itself), this presenter effectively brushed aside criticisms simply because they’re on internet. Evangelicalism enables Pastor Mark by making him above criticism. That’s why we’re in this place right now.
In this blog, I’m more critical of the presenter than Pastor Mark because his kind of horrible rhetoric and mentality precisely enable Pastor Mark to reach the depth to which he fell. Evangelicalism is full of such mentality of cheap grace and celebrity worship. Even after the celebrity has stepped down, the worship continues. Why does Pastor Mark all of a sudden become mighty big to be ministered to? Try telling your congregation member who quietly serves every week, who sits through good and bad sermons in the pew, and who tithes regularly without asking for recognition the same thing, “It’s mighty big that you come to church to be ministered to.” NO ONE is mighty big in God’s eyes. NO ONE is above the Body of Christ! Somehow our spiritual age and celebrity status allows us to remove ourselves from God’s grace and rise above the Body of Christ. We need grace from the first day until the day we die. There’re no exceptions. Not even Pastor Mark is exempt from grace. Not even Pastor Mark is above accountability to the Body.
When Paul said, “Watch yourself, or you also may be tempted,” he meant for the congregation to learn from the historical lessons from the fall. I hope we all learn something because the problem is much bigger than Mark Driscoll.