“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3, NIV.
Last fall, LifeWay Research released a study showing that less than half of U.S. evangelicals “strongly agree” with core biblical tenets. About the same time, another study showed that most people in Western nations no longer believe in a hereafter.
I realize we may be frustrated with hearing so much about moral behavior, but like cancer, if it’s destroying many of our homes and families, tolerating it isn’t the answer. An epidemic dare not be tolerated, and most Churches, Christian people, and pro-life groups have been guilty of doing just that. The lack of moral purity within our society has reached epidemic proportions.
Regardless of the efforts we employ for the benefit of educating our society, even the most dedicated people will not achieve their goal of reclaiming our communities for Christ until America is again drawn to fear God, and live the lifestyle of Christian people. This will require a major turn-around within our churches, and a change that will take courage and not tolerance.
All deceptive twisting of Scripture is as a result of allowing sin to be tolerated in the camp for the sole purpose of peace and prosperity. Habits are not formed in a day; they are gradual and progressive. We choose not to hurt someone’s feelings, or as a result of being afraid to respond in a given situation, we delay necessary action. Because of a soft heart and often a spineless will (tolerance), we permit someone to “get away with murder.” One of the greats of the Church of England said, “Sin is at first very pleasing, then it grows easy; then it becomes delightful, then frequent, then confirmed.” And now tolerated.
For more than two-hundred years, the greatest danger to our nation was considered to be “national security” and threats from outside our borders. Today, most people will agree that we are more threatened from within than from without. Moral decline, the loss of respect for human life, and the breakup of the family, all define the direction our country has digressed. But what should trouble us most is the loss of character that spells even greater danger. Maybe what our society is revealing is not indifference to unethical behavior, but a new definition of ethics that allows for virtually anything-and a society plagued by tolerance.
In most cases tolerance and cowardice dine at the same table. Much like adultery is defined as “having an affair,” or the drunk as suffering from “substance abuse,” tolerance is nothing more than cowardice!
Tolerance is a nice word that has become an especially prized virtue and sole absolute of our land. Yet, few of us understand what it really means. Enlightened people want “to-live-and-let-live,” to be known as “open minded,” “easy-going,” and of course tolerant about beliefs and lifestyles. Even most professing Christians today believe tolerance is the Godliest virtue of all, and why shouldn’t they, for we hear this message pitched from the pulpit every week of the year.
A few years ago, I received an email from a writer for the Madison Newspapers who was upset about a reply I made regarding a LGBT article he had written. Among other things he called me a “homophobe.” “We live in a city of tolerance and diversity,” I responded, “You’re supposed to tolerate me and my diverse beliefs,” Obviously, we didn’t part under very good terms, and I’m sure I didn’t make any brownie points with the paper.
The definition and central message of the Church has become something counter to that of its historicity. The traditional definition of tolerance means to recognize and respect others’ beliefs, practices, and so forth without necessarily agreeing or sympathizing with them. This attitude that everyone has a right to their own opinion is what tolerance has meant to most people since the founding of our country.
But today’s definition is vastly different. It no longer means simply agreeing to disagree. The new tolerance considers every individual’s beliefs, values, lifestyle and truth claims as equal value (Thou shall not think). This represents one of the greatest changes in history — and our churches are quietly acquiescing.
The slightest expression of personal moral conviction is now considered as “intolerant.” Like a powerful acid, the accusation of intolerance eats away at traditional morality, leaving only threads of past convictions behind. By redefining absolute truth as “intolerant,” the goal of this deception is to appear open and accepting. But we must realize the most difficult form of evil to recognize is deception itself (Galatians 6:7).
The message of Christianity is, however, not tolerant — it is very intolerant! We will either repent or we will perish, there is no in-between! In Revelation 21:8, cowardice, or tolerance, is considered to be as wicked as sorcery, idolatry, and murder. In fact, it is at the top of the list. Tolerance is the virtue of people who do not believe in anything. I heard a pastor recently define tolerance as “man’s attempt to remove himself from God,” which does not speak well of our churches. The pastor went on to say, “God is never, never, tolerant. He is merciful. There is a vast difference. Love forgives, but is never tolerant. We must realize that God sent Jesus to the cross because He was merciful, not because He was tolerant. People who claim to belong to Christ do not have the right to condone or tolerate what God says is wrong. An intolerant God has been merciful to me.”
When tolerance means being patient with other people, listening to their points of view, and allowing them the freedom to follow their consciences, tolerance is a virtue necessary to every citizen in a free society. But tolerance is not the only value in the book. In fact, there is a grave danger when we separate tolerance from other important righteous values such as truth and justice.
If tolerance means we cease to challenge false beliefs and unjust practices around us for fear we might offend someone, then misguided tolerance actually weakens the bonds of our community. This kind of tolerance does not show an open mind to our neighbor; it shows indifference. It says, “We don’t really care what he / she believes or how he / she lives. All beliefs and practices are the same.”
Billy Graham said in his article “The Sin of Tolerance,” “In some things Christ was the most tolerant, broad-minded Man who ever lived, but in other things He was one of the most intolerant.”
Jesus Himself was never shy about expressing the truth He had been given to proclaim, and He expects equal boldness from His followers. We must steadfastly judge sins and heresies in general, and exhort those guilty of them to repent. Our job is to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...” (Great Commission, Matthew 28:19). In order to rescue dissenters, we need to boldly and clearly proclaim apostasy, heresy, abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and other evils to be gravely evil (Cultural Mandate (Genesis 1:28).
For the church to tolerate evil and retreat from its primary duty to God’s Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission from Christ is an act of provincial cowardice.
So, what does tolerance have to do with Christians, abortion and the cross? We all live somewhere and most of us attend a church. Where are our priorities? Will we be among those willing to pay whatever the price to be sure that our children and grandchildren are not hurt by our tolerance?
To be involved in evangelism, we do not need to cross the sea, as much as we need to see the cross. In His Great Commission, Jesus didn’t only tell us to evangelize. He told us to make disciples, which he said involves “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 19-20). If we fail to do so, then we fail to fulfill the Great Commission!
If you have not already done so, please call on Christ today to be your Savior. We are all sinners saved by grace — soldiers in the Army of God!