It has become cliché to say that “The only modern virtue is complete tolerance.” This is a sad but true saying in our age. Most of the liberals in religion would argue that “God is love, and since He loves everyone, He wants people to accept all behaviors.” The blanket of God’s love as acceptance gets thrown onto too many discussions that contain moral absolutes.
The fact of Scripture is that God is intolerant of certain things. One should hasten to admit that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). Without His grace and mercy, no person could expect to have eternal life. Paul wrote, “For the grace of God that bringeth 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” (Titus 2:11-12). That being the case, there are things that God, in His holiness, cannot tolerate.
God does not tolerate sin. Ezekiel 18:4 says, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” One crucial aspect of humankind’s salvation is the fact that Jesus died for our transgressions. 1 Corinthians 15:3 reads, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” This should convict a person of the horrible nature of sin. All of the pain that He endured at Calvary was for the redemption of lost humankind. Our sins nailed Him to the cross, and His love kept Him there until the opportunity for the salvation of man was made available.
God is intolerant of the impenitent. Jesus demanded the repentance of lost humanity. Repentance is the antithesis of tolerance. Jesus commanded, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish…I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3, 5). God expects all people to repent (Acts 17:30). Some aspects of repentance might be more difficult than others, but God still expects the repentance of those who would be truly converted to Christ.
Jesus was intolerant of religious hypocrisy. A loving Christ was very harsh regarding the behavior of the Pharisees of His age. Jesus calls the religious leaders of His age “hypocrites” some seven times in Matthew 23 (vs. 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, and 29). From this, one might believe that Jesus was a Pharisee-phobe. No, He loved these people, but He told the truth about their ungodly ways!
Jesus was intolerant of those who made sinful gains in the name of religious service. When Jesus cleansed the temple, He expelled people who made dishonest gain in the name of providing monetary exchanges so worshippers could provide animals for sacrifice. John recorded, “And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise” (Jn. 2:14-16).
Jesus was intolerant of religious error. When He contacted the Samaritan woman, He engaged her in a discussion about a religious controversy that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans. He asserted the truth regarding the appropriate place of worship, and He provided the standard that God expects among those who draw near to Him. Jesus said, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:21-24). We should seek to worship God according to the acceptable pattern and standard.
Christ was intolerant of the disobedient. It is a difficult thing for many to accept, but those who proclaim religion in Jesus’ name but are otherwise disobedient to His commands are among those who are lost. Our Lord said, “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21-23). Many religious people are going to be surprised on the Day of Judgment.
The same God who is intolerant of sin still loves sinful people. If we are to be servants of the Master, we need to have the same orientation towards sin. It is possible to disagree with a person and still love them. A man might disagree with his own children daily and still have the deepest type of love imaginable for them. People must move past the infantile thinking of many in our society. Being intolerant of a person’s sinful behaviors is not the same thing as hating them.
Johnny Trail preaches for the Sycamore Chapel church of Christ in Ashland City, TN
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