My family and I moved back to the United States in early July 2014. A few short weeks following, news outlets treated the country to steady coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That incident and the immediate fall-out was a “welcome back” that tapped into my one fear about moving to the States and the inner city, the violence my then-7-year old son would face.
As providence would have it, a long litany of police-involved shootings took place over the coming months. I began writing about my fear and the state of things as I saw them. In the process, I believe at various points I sinned against some of my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. I know that not everyone took offense, and a good many either appreciated or agreed with what I’ve written. I’m grateful for the many who have shared with me that some of my writing over the last five years has helped them or challenged them in various ways. Straight licks and crooked sticks.
Without discounting those who have been helped, I want to address those who have been hurt. To those genuinely offended and sinned against, I want to offer a sincere apology for several things.
First, I ask your forgiveness for writing out of fear and anger at times. God has not given us a spirit of fear. The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Yet, there have been times when either or both of those emotions have shaped my heart and my subsequent words.
Second, I ask your forgiveness for writing in ways that were sometimes indiscriminate. It’s the responsibility of the writer to write in such a way that the meaning is unmistakable. There’s a corollary, I think. The writer should write in such a way that the persons he/she critiques, rebukes, or admonishes should be unmistakable as well. One of the most painful things for me over the last few years is the realization that a lack of carefulness and specificity has sometimes injured people I had no intention of injuring. That’s included members and leaders in my local church, persons in other churches that are dear to me, and people I’ve never met and never sought to attack. My generalizations and lack of specificity have caused harm along with understandable frustration, discouragement, sadness, and other reactions for which I ask forgiveness.
Third, I ask your forgiveness for sometimes writing before I had sufficient details to comment effectively. I do not believe having “all the facts” is a possible goal for leaders. But we should have sufficient facts before speaking or writing, or we should considerably qualify our comments if we must speak before we know enough. I should have been more circumspect at times. Failing to do so did not help matters and did not demonstrate the kind of grace or self-control incumbent upon Christians and Christian leaders. In some matters, the facts did not verify my view, so my comments also misled at points. I ask anyone effected by this to please forgive me.
Fourth, I apologize for my sometimes dismissive, disregarding, rude, impatient and harsh tone on social media. The Scripture is clear: Christians should not return reviling for reviling. I failed to keep my Lord’s example who when mistreated “never said a mumbling word.” Though the Scripture enjoins us to answer opponents gently and patiently (2 Tim. 2:24), I have done the opposite. For that, I do sincerely apologize and ask forgiveness.
Fifth, I apologize for any ways I have misrepresented anyone’s motives, comments, or positions. I hate to be misrepresented, and I hate failing to accurately portray others. Where I’ve been made aware of any misrepresentation, I have sought to respond accordingly. But if any out there without access to me believe I’ve distorted their views or maligned their motives, I do ask you to forgive me. If you would be willing to identify when and how I’ve misrepresented you, I would be eager to offer a retraction or restatement as the circumstance requires and allows.
Sixth, I want to ask your forgiveness for acting out of hopelessness. Frankly, hopelessness about the state of reconciliation and the pursuit of justice in the church has been my toughest spiritual battle until about a year ago when the Lord graciously convicted me of it. Prior to that, I had little hope of seeing some evangelicals support the cause of justice. I have had little to no hope for genuine, honest discussion. That despairing attitude has been sinful. It’s been a diminishment of the grace of God that I trust is at work in his people. Please forgive me.
Finally, I ask your forgiveness for offering this apology and seeking your forgiveness in so tardy a fashion. Truthfully, I’ve known conviction and grief for a long time. I’ve justified not apologizing by thinking of the misrepresentation and mistreatment I have received. Then I rationalized not apologizing by saying to myself that scoffers and the like would misuse even my apology. However true or false those things may be, I know full well that I owed a confession and apology long ago and I refused to offer it. That delay lacked integrity. So, I ask that you might forgive me for withholding a confession when I knew it was owed to all I’ve offended.
I offer this apology freely and genuinely. It is not offered in hopes of any return other than the forgiveness I seek with those I’ve offended. Nor does it come as the result of any pressure, coercion, or force other than that graciously applied by the Holy Spirit.
I understand if some are unable to forgive me. I accept that this may be the consequence of my own actions. Where trust has been lost and not easily restored, I accept that too. I do not feel entitled to either your trust or your attention. In repentance, I accept the consequences of my actions.
I hope to reverse these errors and sins going forward. I commit to extending as much charity as I’m able in my writing. I do not intend to coddle or mollify, for that sometimes would be sin of another sort—either flattery or dissembling. But I do hope to be clear and perhaps confrontational without being uncharitable. I do hope to be incisive but not judgmental. I do hope to state facts well while not wrongly extrapolating or generalizing. And I do hope to make my meaning, audience, and subjects of critique unmistakable.
For most of the last two years, I’ve been listening to the views of others. While I’ve been active on Twitter, I’ve intentionally not engaged some discussions at blog length. I’ve benefitted from a great deal of my listening. Much has been said. However, much still needs to be said. I hope to be useful to the Lord’s cause, his church, and righteousness as I say my part. I hope you will pray for me as I renew my commitment to pray for you when I write.
All for Jesus,