Reflections On My “Break-Up” With The Gospel Coalition
What we’re talking about here is not just our tendency to lurch and stumble and screw up by accident, our passive role as agents of entropy. It’s our active inclination to break stuff, “stuff” here including moods, promises, relationships we care about, and our own well-being and other people’s…
It’s been a much quieter week for me. Last week was loud and exhausting. And (other than Miami Heat games, Dallas Cowboy games, Ultra Music Festival, and the music in my car) I’m not a fan of either loud or exhausting. Not many are. So, I’m grateful that God has granted me a quieter week.
Still, the very public “break-up” between The Gospel Coalition and me weighs heavy on my heart. And I want to say just a few things about it now that I’ve had some time to reflect.
First, I want to say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for saying things in my own defense. One of the things that the gospel frees you to do is to never have to bear the burden of defending yourself. Defending the gospel is one thing. But when a defense of the gospel becomes a defense of yourself, you’ve slipped back under “a yoke of slavery.” I slipped last week. I’m an emotional guy. And in my highly charged emotional state, I said some things in haste, both publicly and privately, that I regret. I never want anything I say to be a distraction from the mind-blowing good news of the gospel and last week I did. I got in the way. When you feel the need to respond to criticism, it reveals how much you’ve built your identity on being right. I’m an idolater and that came out last week. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose…and last week I fought to win. I’m sorry you had to see that. Lord have mercy…
Second, I want everyone to know just how much I absolutely love and adore my friend, Tim Keller. Tim is traveling but we’ve been in touch and are planning to talk this upcoming week. We are both committed to one another and the friendship we’ve enjoyed for many years. There are few people on this planet that I hold in higher esteem than Tim. He knows that. I love him. He has been a mentor and older brother to me for a long time and both he and Kathy have been near and dear to Kim and me. The thought that I said anything at all that would hurt Tim or call anything about him into question makes me both sad and sick. I’m really sorry about that. Please forgive me.
Third (and finally), I want you to know that while Christians have differences on a wide variety of issues, I believe that the world is big enough and the harvest is ripe enough for well-meaning brothers and sisters to agree to disagree. The world desperately needs to see Christians standing side by side and back to back, loving one another. And last week I found myself standing face to face with some Christians in a posture of non-love. I’m really sorry about that. As both Liberate and The Gospel Coalition move forward I want people to know that, while there may be differences, we’re on the same team.
The saddest thing about all of this is that, because of the public visibility of those involved, this conflict gained a lot of attention. The reason this grieves me so deeply is because the Bible says God wants the way Christians love one another to be a visual model of the way God loves us. He wants us, in other words, to live our lives together in such a way that we demonstrate the good news of reconciliation before the watching world. He wants us to be loving and patient and forbearing and deferential to each other. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). I’m guilty—we’re all guilty—of saying things and thinking things and doing things and failing to say, think and do things that exhibit the kind of treatment we’ve received in the person and work of Jesus—“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The late Francis Schaeffer once noted that bitter divisions among Christians give the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel. But when reconciliation, peacemaking, and unity are on display inside the church, that becomes a powerful witness to this fractured world. This conflict has “given the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel”, and I am sorry for my contribution to this conflict. Thankfully, God’s grace covers all our sin. I’d be lost and hopeless without the rock solid assurance that, if we are in Christ, we can never ever out-sin the coverage of God’s forgiveness. That alone makes me want to sin less.
So, whenever you see any of us who claim to be “Christ followers” behaving in a manner that is unlike Jesus, please forgive us. And please let that be a reflection on us, and not on Him. As imperfect people, we will continue to let you down and disappoint you, but Jesus will never let you down—he will never disappoint you, leave you, or forsake you.
I’m honored to be on “the same team” as Christians of all theological stripes and convictions. I love living in a “large tent” with lots of different kinds of people. In the meantime, however, please bear with us all as we grow and change together.
I love you guys. I really do. I am now and will forever be,