But why the need for an olive branch? Well, in the past, MacArthur, has been openly critical of Driscoll. Quoting from Pulpit Magazine December 11, 2006, he says:
"Worldly preachers seem to go out of their way to put their carnal expertise on display—even in their sermons. In the name of connecting with “the culture” they want their people to know they have seen all the latest programs on MTV; familiarized themselves with all the key themes of “South Park”; learned the lyrics to countless tracks of gangsta rap and heavy metal music; and watched who-knows-how-many R-rated movies. They seem to know every fad top to bottom, back to front, and inside out. They’ve adopted both the style and the language of the world—including lavish use of language that used to be deemed inappropriate in polite society, much less in the pulpit. They want to fit right in with the world, and they seem to be making themselves quite comfortable there. Mark Driscoll is one of the best-known representatives of that kind of thinking. He is a very effective communicator—a bright, witty, clever, funny, insightful, crude, profane, deliberately shocking, in-your-face kind of guy. His soteriology is exactly right, but that only makes his infatuation with the vulgar aspects of contemporary society more disturbing." (source)
Today, however, Mark pays a tribute to John MacArthur on the Resurgence weblog, entitled: "John MacArthur on Bible Teaching". He says,
It should be noted that John MacArthur and Phil Johnson have reciprocated words of commendation for Mark Driscoll in the past. For example, Phil says,
"This is the first time I have ever posted anything critical of Driscoll. I have appreciated his defense of the atonement and his willingness to confront the neo-liberalism of other Emerging leaders honestly." (source) MacArthur as observed above said, "his soteriology is exactly right." (source)
So what can we learn from this? One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22) and according to the Apostle Paul love actually "hopes all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7) i.e. sincerely desires to believe one another and to assign the best of all possible constructions upon what others have said and done. Remaining sin often makes that difficult. Nevertheless, we must seek to surmount the challenge. This means we need to be lovingly hopeful toward both Mark and Phil.
In light of the tribute Driscoll paid to MacArthur today, the rest of us have a renewed opportunity to test the hopefulness of our own love for Mark. Some may wish that this kind overture had gone further and had gotten there faster. That's understandable. But love is also patient. It waits upon God for progress in others, and then looks in the mirror and says,
"Lord, help me to be humbly patient with my brothers and righteously impatient with myself. I'm the one who needs to go further and get there faster. Please help others to be as patient with me as you have been!"
We can commend Mark for his humility and the offering of an olive branch toward one of his critics. Certainly we hope this kind of humility will continue to characterize both of these brothers. But for the rest of us, we need to seize this as an opportunity for personal growth in the grace of humility.