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Shouldn't Christians be Tolerant?

Today’s Question: I used to go to your church until you got involved with trying to stop the city from giving health benefits to homosexual partners of city employees. I thought Christians were supposed to be tolerant of other people, and it seems you lack tolerance for others. Shouldn’t Christians be tolerant?

(Name did not match any members of Word of Life Church)

Bible Answer: It is sad you stopped attending our church simply because I follow my conscience. It is a shame that you would leave over this issue. But I suppose this is why some pastors don’t want to get involved in moral issues; they are afraid some members would quit their church if they spoke up for the truth. They feel almost blackmailed by their congregation—“they’ll leave the church if I speak the truth.” Well, neither you or anyone else will ever stop me from speaking the truth in love to our society.

            You ask if Christians are supposed to be tolerant. You might be surprise to find that the word tolerant is not a fruit of the Spirit. According to Galatians 5 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. No mention of tolerance. Yet the way you hear the world talk, you would think tolerance is the most important virtue people should have in their lives. 

            If you mean tolerance in the sense of respecting people’s opinion even if it differs from mine, of course, I respect people’s right to hold to their opinions. That is their right. However, tolerance as used in scriptures means to allow sin and evil to exist without doing anything to stop it. Look at what the Prophet Habakkuk said about God, Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Hab 1:13).

            Isn’t that interesting? God “cannot tolerate wrong.”  Yet tolerance is the mantra of the world. They teach tolerance. They think this is what the world lacks. They especially accuse the church of not practicing tolerance. However, God Himself is not “tolerant.” If He was tolerant then He would not punish evil.

            Do you really want a judge to be tolerant? He smiles at rapists and says, “I don’t judge you.” He grins at molesters and says, “People just don’t understand your feelings.” Of course you would be horrified and offended that a judge would tolerate crime. Yet, people get this idea that God tolerates wrong. He does not!

            You might say, “Yeah, but God is the only One who can judge and we are not suppose to judge.” Oh, I would agree we are not supposed to judge. This does not mean, however, that we are supposed to be tolerant. There is a difference. To judge is to find a person guilty and proceed with punishment. In other words, judgment includes punishing the wrong doer.     

            An example of this is when people brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery and they asked Him, “‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5) This was not a matter of asking Jesus whether or not the woman sinned. Of course she sinned. There was also no dispute over whether adultery was a sin. The question posed to Christ is whether or not we proceed with the punishment prescribed in the Law of Moses. Judgment must include punishment. If a judge only had the power to find a person guilty but no had power to sentence him, then he would not be acting as a true judge.

            Jesus gave the famous answer, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). As you know, the people dropped their rocks and went away. But what many do not know is what Jesus said to the woman, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

            Jesus was without sin, and therefore could have thrown the stones at her, but instead He forgave her. But He also warned her, “Leave your life of sin.”  According to some people’s definition of judging, Jesus judged her by even encouraging her to stop sinning. You see, people think you are judging if you challenge people to stop sinning. How dare you even think I am sinning! To even point out the obvious—that sin is sin—is considered judging by many. However, encouraging a life of holiness is not judging. Speaking out against sin—in all its form—is not judging. If we could not speak out against sin without being accused of judging, then we would have to stop preaching the Bible. The Bible talks about what sin is.

            May I say what people really want? They want to remove homosexuality from the list of sins. While some churches are departing from the Bible and changing their moral views, the Word of God will continue to have homosexuality as part of a list of grievous sins.

            The trouble with preaching tolerance is it lacks a true and full understanding of Who God is. God is both holy and love. He is not just holy without love. And He is not love without holiness. He is both holy and love.

            Since God is holy, He is absolutely righteous. He lives holy. He acts righteously. There is no sin or impurity in God. He is pure holiness. When the angels see God in His Glory, the first thing to come out of their mouths is, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” They recognize the holiness of God.

            Thankfully God is also Love. Since He is Love, He does not want to punish the wrongdoer; He wants to forgive them instead. God’s answer to both His Holy and Love nature was to provide a sacrifice for us. This is what the cross is all about. God punished our sins through Christ on the cross, so He could show mercy to those who sinned without tolerating sin. Sin has been punished. The cross is the place of punishment. It is where God shows His holy nature against sin. Yet the cross shows His love toward us.

            This means sin can be forgiven, but it is never tolerated. God commands us to forgive, but He never encourages us to tolerate sin. There is a clear difference.

            Tolerance is showing love without holiness. This is a distortion of God’s character. This is why Christians cannot be tolerant. We must express both God’s holiness and His love. We do that by forgiving repentant people, and, following Christ example, we warn people to leave their lives of sin.

            In the book of revelation we find Jesus mentioning tolerance. In one case, he commends a church; and in another place He corrects a church. What church do you think was commended and which do you think was corrected?

            To the church in Ephesus, He said, “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false” (Rev 2:3, bold added)

                To the church in Thyatira: “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (v 20, bold added).

            Isn’t it interesting that the church that refused to tolerate wicked men were commended by Christ and the church that tolerated Jezebel was corrected. Wow! So dear brother, you want me to tolerate our city’s agenda to promote homosexuality. Well, I will not! I love homosexuals too much to let them think they can continue in their sin and make heaven. I want them to be saved, but how will they be saved, if they do not leave their lives of sin?

            True love reaches out to help others. Parents that truly love their children will not be permissive and let their children do whatever they want. No. Parents will rebuke and correct their children because they love them. It is not the city council of El Paso that is showing true love to the homosexuals by using tax dollars to endorse their sinful lifestyle; it is rather the Church that is showing true love by pointing out that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle and that only through Christ can they be forgiven and given power to live a new life of holiness.

            I am saddened that you, my dear brother, have been brainwashed by worldly ideas that you think practicing tolerance is godly. Brother, come back to your senses, and embrace a loving God who gave His life for us to be saved.

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