Category Archives: Tolerance / Intolerance

Answering the Charge of Intolerance

Acts 4:12; John 3:16

Today, the charge of intolerance is leveled at anyone who does not respect with quiet acceptance the perversion of our culture.  Peter paid no heed as to how his culture might respond to the truth about Jesus.  What should we think when accusations of intolerance are made?

I.    GOD OFFERS SALVATION from sin TO EVERY SOUL

A.    He has a tolerant side (John 3:16; 1 Tim 2:3-5; Luke 15:1-2; Matt 7:12; 2 Pet 3:9)
B.    His purpose is not advanced by violent force (Matt 26:55, 52)

II.    MANY ARE CHRISTIANS IN NAME ONLY

A.    Anyone can call himself a Christian (3 John 9-10)
B.    Christ knows those who belong to Him (2 Tim 2:19)

III.    MANY MISREPRESENT CHRIST’S PURPOSE

A.    He did not come to make the world a happy place.
B.    He came to save spiritual lives (John 3:16; Luke 19:10)
C.    His gospel deals with real problems (Rom 3:23; 6:23)

IV.    JESUS CHRIST STANDS ALONE IN HIS UNIQUENESS

A.    He brought eternal life (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9)
B.    He is full of grace and truth (John 1:14)
C.    He explained the Father (John 1:18)
D.    He is the only begotten of God: unique in every way
E.    He spoke the truth of God; exposed and rebuked sin
F.    He was killed, in innocence, to fulfill God’s purpose (Eph 3:4-6, 11)
G.   He has redemptive power by His blood (1 Peter 1:18-19)
H.   He was raised to be a sympathetic High Priest (Heb 4:15; Rom 1:4)
I.    His gospel explains His uniqueness to save from sin (Rom 1:16)

The uniqueness of Christianity (the true religion of Christ) is not based on the perfection of its adherents, but on the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ

Jesus was Intolerant

“The only modern virtue is complete tolerance” we are told. We hear constantly today about the wonderful virtue of tolerance and how that America is the greatest nation on earth because of our tolerance. That sounds noble, yet the modern definition has become “Non-judgmental acceptance of any and all other viewpoints as equally valid to your own viewpoint.” Such a view equates tolerance with compromise and acceptance of sin. Thus, in today’s society, tolerance is seen as being of uttermost importance. The concept appears to be that since God is love and He loves everyone, He must want people to accept all religions and behavior. And so, when religion is being discussed and doctrines and moral absolutes are under discussion, the justification for false doctrine and immoral conduct is the emphasis on God’s love. In our day, it is absolutely intolerant for a person to criticize the religion of others, unless, of course it is Christianity that is being criticized. When one does so, they are criticized as being unloving, intolerant, and hateful. We are asked: “Why are Christians so intolerant? Wasn’t Jesus all accepting?”

The truth is that one way isn’t as good as another. Homosexuality is wrong and should be condemned. Divorcing and remarrying without scriptural cause is not just as good as the opposite. Islam isn’t “another great religion” that can stand hand in hand with Christianity. Immorality is not “just an alternative viewpoint.” All entertainment is not created equal.

Part of the definition of “intolerance” is “unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters.” It is quite remarkable that those who say Christians are intolerant and should not express their religious beliefs are the ones who actually are intolerant. Tolerance is not about “accepting” everyone else’s beliefs, but merely being willing to listen to those beliefs. Thus, tolerance does not mean that we automatically accept everyone else’s beliefs as being true. Contrary to popular beliefs, religions do not teach the same things, and so, they can’t all be true. Belief, in and of itself does not make that belief true! Ravi Zacharias said: “Truth cannot be sacrificed at the altar of pretended tolerance. Real tolerance is deference to all ideas, not indifference to the truth!”

Have you noticed that the liberal media and religionists can loudly proclaim that everyone has the right to think how they want, but when Christians make exclusive claims about God, Jesus, and the Bible, they are loudly discounted and labeled as unenlightened and intolerant, and they do everything they can to silence them. Yet the “enlightened” ones can shout their learned opinions   from the housetop and expect us to believe everything they say without question, and to extol their magnificence.

Hollywood, TV’s talking heads on their talk shows, spew what they believe about the social matters in society all over the place and people are expected to soak it all up like it is gospel. Yet, when a Christian who believes the Bible and stands firmly for the gospel speaks out about matters like alternate life styles, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, abortion, cohabitation, and marriage, divorce, and remarriage, what happens? They are told to be quiet or else they will have their arguments ridiculed and drowned out by the talking heads, cultural philosophers, or other members of the cultural elite. The growing voice in our secular, pluralistic society says: “How can anybody believe such a thing as the Bible is the Word of God and Jesus is the only Savior and one religion is not as good as another?”

Can’t you see that this is the reason that the language of tolerance isn’t really tolerant? Many who advocate for tolerance believe they are the gatekeepers if truth, and only they can decide who is tolerant and who is intolerant. Therefore, whenever anyone says anything they deem  intolerant, or if a Christian speaks or writes about same-sex marriage or other like issues, they are shouted down, told they are wrong, and immediately labeled a “bigot,” “misguided,” or any number of unsavory labels.

Most of what passes for tolerance today is intellectual cowardice, a fear of intelligent engagement. Those who cry “intolerant” are unwilling to be challenged by other views, to grapple with contrary opinions, or even to consider them. It is easier to hurl an insult, call one an “intolerant bigot,” than to confront the idea and either refute it or to be changed by it. Thus, today, “tolerance” has become “intolerance!”

Tolerance may do well unless people are in danger! Your child may believe it is safe to run across the road, but I’m sure you are intolerant of that belief and behavior. So, instead, because you love him/her, you shout “STOP” and grab him/her. Your friend may believe that alcohol doesn’t affect his/her driving ability, but you are intolerant to that kind of thinking. So, instead, because you love him/her you take his/her car keys and drive him/her home yourself.

Is The Lord Intolerant?

We need to understand that the Scriptures teach that God is intolerant of certain things, but that doesn’t mitigate against His love!  In fact, we learn from 1 John 4: 8 that “God is love.”  He has demonstrated His love for us, that, even while we were sinners, He sent His Son to die for us (Rom 5: 8).  Without His grace and mercy, no one could expect to have eternal life.  Titus 2: 11-12 says: “For the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.”  Again, we read in Titus 3: 3-6: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness (goodness) and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, He saved us through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

The Lord knows that certain views, beliefs, and behaviors are dangerous, hurtful, and sinful, to those who practice them, and that they lead to spiritual death, judgement, and eternal ruin.  If he, like a lot of people, had simply tolerated all of these different views and behaviors, He’d have smiled, waved, done nothing, and moved on.  But instead, Jesus loves people (their souls) too much to just ignore and be silent, knowing that people are heading for ruin if they do not wake up.

Thus, Jesus was intolerant of certain views, beliefs, and behaviors, but at the same time He demonstrated how much He loved people whose beliefs and behaviors differed radically from His own, by dying on the cruel cross for them!  To the Corinthians Paul wrote: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus,: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor 5: 14-15).  He further said: “For you know the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you though His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8: 9).  Thus, even though there are things that the Lord, in His holiness, cannot tolerate, don’t ever doubt His love for sinful man.

I’m sure that Jesus would be described as one of the most intolerant people to have ever lived.  Although Jesus was loving and associated with all kinds of people, He was not tolerant of their sinful lifestyles. He confronted immoral behavior directly, and even had the audacity to tell people to stop participating in their sinful behavior; “Go and sin no more from now on” (John 8: 11).  He was intolerant of false teachers and the false doctrines they taught (Matt 7: 15, 21-23).  He was intolerant of the “very religious” Scribes and Pharisees and rebuked them strongly in Matthew 23.  He was intolerant of those who set aside God’s law to follow human tradition (Matt 15: 3-9).  He was intolerant of imposters claiming to be Christ (Matt 24: 24), and He told the Sadducees that they were “mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt 22: 29).  He was intolerant of those money changers in the temple and drove them out (Matt 21, Mk 11; Luke 19; John 2).  He was intolerant of anyone who claimed to offer access to the Father other than through Him (John 14: 6).

We see then, that Jesus was intolerant and also confrontational.  He was intolerant of sin, religious hypocrisy, those who made sinful gains in the name of religion, religious error, and disobedience.  But we also see that the same Jesus who is intolerant of sin and disobedience still loves sinful people (Rom 5:8).  He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3: 9).  He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2: 4).  In John 14:21, we read: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

If we are to be servants of God, we need to have the same viewpoint of sin.  We must understand that it is possible to disagree with a person and still love them.  We might disagree with our own children and still deeply love them.

Being intolerant of a person’s sinful behaviors is not the same thing as hating them.

By Dennis Abernathy