Mac Brunson is a very gifted preacher. He has it within him to be an outstanding Bible expositor. But as we saw once again this Sunday, when he feels the need to stretch or twist scriprute and make the sermons about him in a more or less indirect way, he gets into trouble.
This past Sunday Mac continued his series on what to do when the storms of life come upon us.
He was preaching through Acts 28, verses 1-6, the account of when Paul was shipwrecked and bitten by a viper and the natives thought him to be a murderer. He took this account, which was most definitely about how God had his hand of protection on Paul, and made it an example of how God's man can be "falsely accused", and that when we as Christians are falsely accused, we should follow Paul's example and let God vindicate us.
Listen for yourself here to this 3 minute clip: Mac Brunson on False Accusations
I'm totally unqualified to assess Mac's interpretation of scripture as I'm no Bible scholar, but this to me is such an obvious misuse of scripture that I'll take the burden on of having to state what so many were thinking during the sermon:
1. He starts off by stating "some of you are in a storm right now of being misunderstood by somebody. Some of you are wrapped up in a shipwreck of people who have prejudged you and assumed things about you and have attacked you unfairly and unjustly and un-Christlike." Most of us Mac aren't in that kind of storm - wait a minute, I think you may be on to something: you must mean those of us who you "prejudged" by your attacking our congregation as being "legalistic" and assuming everybody "has a list" and assuming we "don't seem to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ"....yes, I suppose we do understand that kind of storm. Seriously, I guess its possible for some of Mac's listeners to be in that situation, but it sounds too much like he's talking about himself. In fact he says just moments later: "Become a Baptist preacher and talk to me this time next week" so yes he does see this situation as applying to himself. To suggest that this scripture in Acts 26 is about people "prejudging God's people" is an incredible stretch. The natives weren't "prejudging" Paul they were reacting to the situation as best they knew. And if they were it most certainly doesn't apply to Mac's situation. No one prejudged Mac when he came - in a negative way anyways - we all prejudged him to be our loving pastor to come and lead us. We welcomed he and his family and there was no prejudging. The storm that Mac apparently feels himself to be in now is based on months and months of observing his own actions and people listening to his own words.
2. Then he continues: "What does Paul do? Defend himself? No. Cry out on his behalf? No. He knows God will vindicate him." I might add that Paul didn't either complain about emails and how hard his job is. The fact is the scripture is silent about what Paul did in response to the native's assumption that he was a murderer. He might very well have defended himself as he did at Lystra in Acts 14, but the scripture here is silent...perhaps because this is not what the scripture is teaching that we should not defend ourselves against false accusations - many commentators state that this event was a direct fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy in Mark 16:18 and Luke 10:19! Why does Mac feel the need to stretch scripture to say things that it does not say?
3. He then continues: "Know this brother or sister in Christ. You feel shipwrecked on the shore of being attacked? Let...God...fight...your....battles" (followed by silence and crickets chirping). It sure sounds like Mac is recommending that if we are attacked unfairly by ungodly people, that we should not defend ourselves. According to Mac we should do as Paul did in this situation (or may not have done - the scripture doesn't say - but maybe it does in the Greek) and remain silent and wait for God to vindicate. Mac is using a scripture that clearly is not meant to address Paul's reaction to the natives thinking he is a murderer, to draw a conclusion that the scripture wasn't intended to teach, and which conclusion is contrary to how the apostle Paul generally handled situations where he was falsely accused!! Read Paul's defense of himself just two chapters earlier when he stood in front of King Agrippa. Paul actually said "King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews...." Then later when Agrippa calls him insane, Paul says "I am not insane, most excellent Festus". Mac perhaps you should follow Paul's example there! So if Mac desires to teach his congregation how to respond to false attacks using Paul as our example, I think it reasonable to use Paul's defenses of himself in other areas of Acts rather than one instance where he was bitten by a viper and accused of being a murderer by frightened natives. In fact everyone sitting in the service has probably been falsely accused, or attacked at some point. How should we react? Just clam up and let God handle it? I think most of us know that as we strive to live peaceably among men that we can and should give a defense of ourselves and we don't have to just wait idly by for God to vindicate. I would argue Mac is doing just the OPPOSITE of what a mature person in a leadership position would do. If a strong leader senses growing unrest among those he's charged to lead, the normal course of action is to address the questions and try to give an explanation. Leaders most certainly should NOT complain to those they are leading about how tough their job is each week, telling people they should haver THEIR job for a week, etc. etc. So Mac either speak up and defend yourself, or take your own advice and clam up and let God vindicate you over time - but for heaven's sake enough of the complaining about how hard you have it.
4. The Spurgeon story about the eggs - Mac is drawing an analogy between the heat Spurgeon received for not giving his eggs away, and the heat Mac is getting for nepotism, high salaries, living large in a million dollar home, receiving a $300,000 gift and other abuses. I have no doubt that Mac is a generous man, but whether he is or is not really is not the issue so using this Spurgeon story to deflect the criticism he has received is really sad. As Spurgeon once said: "Our gifts are not to be measured by the amount we contribute, but by the surplus kept in our own hands. The two mites of the widow were, in Christ's eyes, worth more than all the other money cast into the treasury..."
Mac - please stick to preaching the Word, and let the Holy Spirit do His work. You don't need to make the Bible say something it was not intended to say, to give poor advice to people on how to handle attacks, while justifying your own poor decisions.