Today Rachel Held Evans tweeted that despite her disagreements with him, she would be happy to come to the Lord’s Table with John Piper any time. No matter what, he’s a brother.
A brother who creates a big-time abusive environment for blaming the victim, but still a brother, right?
Sorry, but it doesn’t work like that. I read a book years ago on the writer’s craft by James Kilpatrick (sorry, forgot the title) and some of the best advice I have ever received was this. If you start purple, finish purple.
There are three ways to relate to fellow Christians when it comes to the Lord’s Table. One is when a professing brother is living in a way that denies the gospel, and this is something that can be amply demonstrated in a competent jurisdiction. When this happens, it is an occasion for church discipline.
In the second category we find a person who is living in a way that discredits the gospel, but for some reason it cannot be appropriately proven. In such a case, I would be happy to come to the Lord’s Table with such a person, but only because I would be praying for the Spirit to be using the Supper to deal with him, as a means of bringing him to repentance.
There are different kinds of examples of this, but one would be if the other person were in a different ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and they had made a decision I differed with. Provided that wrong decision were not itself grounds for breaking fellowship with that other communion (sanctifying sodomy, for example), I would honor the decision and would be willing to break bread with such a person. The Spirit is still sovereign, and can still work in and through our failures, which turns out to be a good thing.
And last, I come to the Table with my brothers and sisters in sweet fellowship. I can do this despite differences over baptism, church government, eschatology, etc., but the fellowship itself is entirely positive.
But what I can’t do is talk about them as though they are in the second category, and then flip the sweet fellowship switch when Sunday comes. If I start purple, I need to finish purple. Rachel Held Evans, in this most recent tweet, was trying to act as though creating abusive and toxic environments for hurting victims was just one of those things that Christians disagree about — you know, like pre-trib, mid- trib, post-trib.
If John Piper’s theology makes people go out and kick puppies on Monday, then say so, and hope that the bread and wine next Sunday will make him reflect on the terrible damage he is doing. But the prayer for repentance must be constant clear through. And if his theology is not something that makes all good Calvinists name their puppies Servetus, then it is necessary to stop acting like it does — it is time to reflect on the terrible things you have been saying about them.
Flip this around. If Rachel Held Evans were driving through Moscow one Sunday morning, and out of curiosity decided to come worship with us, she would absolutely be welcome to the Table. Every week, at the close of my exhortation for the Supper, I say, “Come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.” Why wouldn’t that include her?
But I say this, knowing that she has some significant things to put right, among them this most recent attack on Piper. And I would pray that she would do so. But there is an important thing to remember about breaking bread. It does help us to repent, but it provides no help at all in walking things back.