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Tolerance for Christians, Part II August 4, 2005

Posted by mjtilley in Uncategorized.

While God’s tolerance for sinful man in evident in Jonah (indeed, throughout Scripture), the question remains of the Christian’s responsibility on the matter. Is this simply a matter of Divine prerogative or do we share some mandate to tolerate as well?

Three passages from Scripture give us an indication of the fact that we do have a command to tolerate sinners and of the nature of that tolerance:

  • II Corinthians 5:18-20: We must help (in fact, I assert that it is an honor) God’s quest to be reconciled to the world. While that reconciliation isn’t reserved for the “good” sinners or the ones we like (many of our own lives are testimony to that fact), we have to, as God does, recognize and respect the stipulation for true reconciliation: REPENTANCE. That means we do everything we can to show God’s extended love to a sinful world. However, that love stops well short of ever condoning the sin. Further, the truest expression of accepting that love is to reject the sin that, to this point, has been the stumbling block for the relationship.
  • Romans 2:1-4: We must remember that we once were under God’s wrath. Not only are we guilty of the same charges we can lay on the world, we are cut from the same deviant, God-defiant cloth. Further, we must remember that God’s judgments are true and final, which should move us to compassion for the lost, not the hate that so many Christians are ironically known for. Finally, we must remember that it’s the very existence of God’s tolerance that we even have the opportunity to repent of sin and escape God’s wrath — there’s nothing inherently good in any of us.
  • Matthew 5:7, 9, 38-44, 6:9-15, 7:1-5: These are all slices of a very important and well-known sermon by Jesus. Too often it has be hijacked by “liberal” theologians as the sum and total of the Gospel, to the exclusion of any mention of sin and repentance. However, those that think that way overlook Matthew 4:7 where Jesus’ message — given right before the Sermon on the Mount — parallels Jonah’s and demands repentance. While He does certainly give a mandate to repent, the liberal perversion of the Sermon on the Mount in no way dilutes its true meaning or implications for our own lives. We are, indeed, to be merciful, peaceful, passive, gracious and humble. We are to assume we are the problem, no the other guy. We are, to use liberal parlance, to be TOLERANT!

While I tend to want to explain this concept of tolerance away as so many other things, the final analysis shows it to be a very difficult thing. It’s so counter to our own natures that we want to take it out of God’s. The fact is, we are to be tolerant. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are to be tough on sin. How do you do both? Frankly, I don’t have a great answer . . . but then again, James tells us to ask God for wisdom to handle these sorts of things.



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