This sermon was delivered by the often controversial Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hills Church on 09/30/2007.  This sermon title is, “Fathers and Fighting”.

The passage Driscoll preached from was Nehemiah 13:23-31 (ESV).

23 In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?” 28 And one of the sons of Jehoiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me. 29 Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. 30 Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; 31 and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

The following excerpt demonstrates Driscoll application of this passage to his church life and practice of leadership at Mars Hill.  On this occasion, the two church leaders Driscoll mentions in this sermon were fired in a private meeting just a few minutes after this sermon was preached.

NOTE: this excerpt is from the actual transcript of the sermon so the bracketed words “(Laughter)” indicate the audience reaction to what Driscoll is preaching.

You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there’s not confrontation, then you better enjoy sin because that’s what’s going to happen. “Then I confronted them, and I cursed them.” He’s just cussing guys out (Laughter). “And beat some of them (Laughter).” I’ll read that again. “And beat some of them.” Now, he’s an older guy. And he’s beating up members of his church (Laughter). What do we do with that? I’ll tell ya what I’d like to do with that. I’d like to follow in his example. There’s a few guys right now that if I wasn’t gonna end up on CNN, I would go Old Testament on ‘em, even in leadership in this church (Laughter). Here’s Nehemiah’s deal. Now, Romans 13 says we need to obey the government, so you can’t just walk around beating people up tragically (Laughter). It does simplify things. There’s no like attorneys and blogging. Just like “I punched you in the mouth. Shut up (Laughter).” That’s clean. It’s simple.

Now, in this Nehemiah gets so angry that he can’t make these guys stop, and so he physically assaults them. Now, this week in your community group you can dialogue whether or not you think that was godly. That would be something fun to talk about (Laughter). Okay? You can debate the merits of this old day. But I’ll tell you this: I’m not saying it’s okay to beat people up, but I understand (Laughter). That’s what I am saying. I’ll tell ya another story. There’s a guy I met. He’s a mixed martial artist and ultimate fighter. Good guy. Loves Jesus. He was at church recently. And he coaches a lot of young fighters. All right?

And so I coach a lot of pastors, so I asked him, I said, “What do you do with a guy who just doesn’t submit to authority, doesn’t obey the chain of command, doesn’t listen, doesn’t do what he’s told, just rebellious, stiff-necked, hardhearted and stupid?” I said, “What do you do with those guys?” His answer was brilliant. He said, “I break their nose (Laughter).” That was his answer. I said, “Wow! Please explain.” I mean, I’m taking copious notes. Please explain. Here’s what he says: “If I get one of these guys in my fighter camp where I’m training guys and he won’t play by the rules, he won’t listen or respect authority, if I let him get away with it, I have anarchy on my whole team and next thing you know no one is doing what they’re told, and everything falls apart.” That’s exactly what’s happening in Nehemiah’s day.

“So I warn ‘em. ‘You knock it off or I’m gonna put you in the ring, I’m gonna take you down, and I’m gonna bust your nose.’ And if they disobey, disrespect or disregard me, I put ‘em in the octagon, I take ‘em down, and I bust their nose (Laughter).” Okay? He said, “So you’ll notice on the guys on my team they all have a crooked nose and a good attitude (Laughter) (Applause).” I thought “Wow!” I mean, it’s heartwarming (Laughter). I just thought “That is—that makes so much sense to me.” And that’s what Nehemiah is doing. Now, you can debate the merits all day, but I understand (Laughter). “I beat some of them.” And the next one is a little disappointing. “And I pulled out their hair”, which sounds like a chick fight, doesn’t it (Laughter)? That’s a little disappointing. “Pulled out their hair?” I’m like “Hmm.”

So let’s do this. Let’s read into the story just a little bit. Let’s say that maybe it was self-defense, they attacked him, so he had to defend himself. Okay. And somehow the hair-pulling thing I don’t know. I don’t know what happened there. Generally speaking, most men don’t respect other men who pull men’s hair (Laughter). So I’m not—maybe he scalped him (Laughter). Maybe they attacked him, he beat ‘em up and scalped ‘em. I’m gonna go with that ‘cause I can respect that a lot more (Laughter). And then he goes on, “And I made them take an oath.” You think? “Repeat after me.” “Okie-dokie”, you know (Laughter). “Now that I’m bad and bloody (Laughter).” There’s just certain parts of the Bible that [inaudible]—when I talked to the ultimate fighter guy, I said, “You know, you probably never had a verse for it.” And I actually took him to Nehemiah 13. I said, “Here you go. You got a verse. Quote it to your boys when you bust their nose (Laughter).”

Mark Driscoll, “Fathers and Fighting” preached at Mars Hills Church Seattle, WA, Nehemiah 13:23-31, 09/30/2007, taken from Mark Driscoll Sermon Archive 2005-2009 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

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Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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