Some Twitter Christians are handling this Andy Stanley apology very poorly, but it shows our typical unwillingness to truly forgive.

If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, Andy Stanley is a preacher who, in his weekly sermon video, appears to have gotten a little worked up about the topic, and made a jab at parents who take their children/teens to smaller churches. He calls them selfish for wanting to go a small church “where I know everybody,” instead of a larger place where they have enough teens for separate middle and high school groups.

His local church, North Point, has a huge network of congregations, and is one the largest, if not the largest, depending on how you count. Mega-churches are commonly the target for criticism, typically in an ignorant and stereotypical way about the faceless, vague idea of a “mega-church.” So, I’m sure he’s in the position of defending North Point’s size, methodology, and decisions quite often.

That’s not necessarily an excuse, but a possible perspective of where his head might have been. And the point of this sermon was to defend the practice of church, why God designed it, and why it’s beneficial. So someone hears that comment, starts posting for all to see, then in our typical 140-character attention span, we hear only what the headlines read: “Andy Stanley says you’re selfish for going to a small church.”

WHAT?! You’ve got to kidding me? I go to a small church. Well not really, but I maybe once did or know someone who does and just the fact that someone would say that really offends me! Or the fact that someone might be offended offends me.

Even though there may be an element of truth to what he said, the way it came across, especially in the sound bite format that most people will see, does sound harsh. It sounds judge-y. I could retort by listing a dozen positive or necessary reasons for going to a small church. Regardless, he obviously went too far.

He admitted it went too far.

So he apologized.

End of story. Goodnight, folks. See ya next time.

Well, no. Not if you’re still bitter from what he said. Responses are all over the map. Some thank him for his humility. Some remain angry at his arrogance. A few are taking their overall opinion of him and this just adds fuel to their fire. Many demand that he do something more, like take the video down, apologize in a lengthy explanation, go to a small church to apologize in person. But is that forgiveness?

I forgive you, but…

To use the obvious example from Jesus, “How many times should we forgive, 7 times?” “No, 70 times 7.”

…unless you don’t think they’re really sorry.

…unless you’re still angry

…unless you haven’t had a chance to speak your mind

I gave up on internet-arguing years ago. Back in my more politically vocal years, I remember going at it a few times with people polar-opposite of my opinion. And I’m happy to say that I won them over and they’re a completely different person now!

You feel the weight of heavy sarcasm, I hope. Nothing changed. Rarely, very rarely do you find healthy conversations from differing sides online. People seem to lose their decency filter when behind the security blanket of a computer. Hardly anything you see in a comment section would actually be said in a face-to-face conversation. Or at the very least if you shared an opinion, you would pause and make an attempt at being polite.

We can’t get out of our own way. He said some wonderfully, amazing things through the full sermon. Things that many people really need to hear. Especially right before this debatable line. But we naval-gazers aren’t interested in what’s best, we like the drama, we have something to say, or our feelings are hurt.

The worst part is that dude actually apologized! Someone was actually humble enough to admit that he was wrong. No sugar-coating, either. And that’s not good enough for us?

I hope the comments are nothing more than internet trolls. Our response should be different (if a response is even necessary in this case). If we were to use the Forgive 70 x 7 formula, or the Golden Rule, or love others as you love yourself, any of those would change our reaction. Personally, if I said something wrong, then apologized, I would want everyone to about forget it. But I wouldn’t expect them to. I expect to be punished and belittled because that’s just how people are sometimes. So imagine the impact a positive, forgiving response would create. In real life, imagine the bond and friendship that could be formed by truly putting another’s interests ahead of your own. Forget yourself, do the unnatural thing, and truly forgive an apology.

Ironically, the Discussion Guide the church provided for this lesson included this statement: We build churches because the church encourages us to embrace a mandate that could change everything: love your neighbor as yourself.

One thought on “Andy Stanley and the Unforgiving Tweeters

  1. Good post. I was amused by the “not me, but they might be” comment. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “I don’t have a problem with it myself, but somebody might be offended, therefore I’m against it,” I’d be a wealthy man today. Keep up the great work my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

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