In recent news, Westboro Baptist Church (which ” is no more a church than Church’s Fried Chicken is a church” ala Jon Stewart) decided to picket outside of a campus of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. WBC’s inflamatory language and abuse of the Bible and slandering of the name of Christ through their actions is enough to cause even the most passive Christian to bristle. The pastor of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll, is not known for his reserved language when it comes to religious hypocrites. Yet his church chose to extend grace to WBC through the form of free coffee, doughnuts, and a copy of Driscoll’s book Doctrine. (More on the topic can be found on Driscoll’s blog Westboro Baptist Church, This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to Our Whore House for God’s Grace and Free Donuts.) The graceful reaction of the leadership at Mars Hill comes across as abnormal and yet it is a great example of forgiving grace.
The latest free e-book through Grandview Christian Assembly, WARNING Contains No Sugar, spends a chapter touching upon the need for aspiring leaders in the church to learn forgiving grace. Without the capacity to forgive and accept forgiveness relationships dissolve, offenses fester, and churches crumble. Within every human being there is a large amount of sinful pride that seeks to self-justify rather than admit wrongdoing. There is a tendency to harbor offenses (whether real or perceived) rather than extending forgiveness. It is because of the fallen sinful condition of humanity that we need the grace of Christ to forgive others just as “God in Christ Jesus forgave [us]” (Ephesians 4:32).
In chapter ten of Warning John Myer writes:
Wherever diverse personalities gather together, the ability to forgive will always be a priority. And it’s not easy. Forgiveness is a grace, which means you often have to go deep in order to release another person from an offense. As the Bible says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain grace ans mercy and find grace to help in the time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Some grace has to be searched for and found. It may feel as though we need to jackhammer down through a layer of concrete to access it. Finding grace involves prayer and processing things in the Word for a fresh spiritual supply. We will need plenty of it in order to get over squabbles and personality differences, especially in situations where “talking it over” will not help anything and may stir up even more offense. This must be learned. There aren’t any alternatives to forgiveness unless you count resigning your leadership or quitting the church for greener pastures…
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you turn a blind eye to faults and problems. We must continue to coach and exhort our people… Leaders have to deal with their anger and spirit of unforgiveness before ever handling other people (pp. 37-38).
For more on learning the grace of forgiveness, especially in Christian leadership, download and read WARNING Contains No Sugar: Honest Words for Aspiring Leaders in the Church by John Myer.