About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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The Meaning Of Biblical Tolerance   



In various ways and means our culture is preaching its doctrine of tolerance.  Forsaking bigotry, bias, and intolerance sounds like the loving thing to do.  We could all get along just fine, because right now, we're not all getting along just fine.  In all segments of society we're at each other's throats.  The fact of the matter is that our culture is hypocritical.  It preaches tolerance but practices selective tolerance.  Darwin was correct.  It's the survival of the fittest.  Those fit enough to survive the battle to the top of our cultural heap get to define tolerance and select whom to tolerate.      


Intolerance is everywhere.  With pride-filled arrogance politicians disgustingly duke it out in our so-called hallowed halls of parliament and congress.  As if court was a sport, lawyers fiercely fight their cases, not just to determine innocent or guilt, but to win, and win at all costs.  With passionate persistence educators teach the virtuous acceptance of all while rejecting the values of many.  No matter the segment of society, tolerance is selective.  How, then, should Christians view tolerance?            


Look at what Jesus said as recorded in Luke 22:25.


"The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors."


Jesus was critiquing the intolerant Roman form of government where the fittest of men who survived the back-stabbing battle to the top abused their authority to benefit themselves.  Jesus said such abusive intolerance must never exist among His people.  Intolerably pushing everyone aside to benefit one's self is sin.  As 1 Corinthians 13:5 and 6 state, "love does not dishonour others, is not self-seeking ... but rejoices in truth."  Rejoicing in truth is important because truth forms the basis of Biblical love that includes tolerance, but, as 1 John 3:18 states, love has its limits.


"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."


Biblical love requires sacrifice that is expressed in actions based on truth.  That means, we must not cross the line of Biblical truth in our attempt to love, and if we do cross that line, we fail to love.  I knew of a cult whose young women prostituted themselves as a form of evangelism to win men to Jesus.  Such self-sacrifice crosses the boundary-line of Biblical truth and is not love.  That can't be tolerated.   


On many cultural fronts Jesus was culturally incorrect when He demonstrated heart-felt love to the woman at the well (John 4), but being truthfully correct, and for her eternal well-being, He exposed her sin.  Love has limits.  Tolerance has boundaries.  Both are premised on Biblical truth, and thus, cannot ignore sin. 


In Revelation 2:2 we note that Jesus commended the Christians in Ephesus for not tolerating wicked people in their midst.  In Revelation 2:20 we see that Jesus scolded the Christians in Thyatira for tolerating immoral heresies in the church.  Biblical tolerance is selective, but its selectivity is not based on bias or bigotry.  It's motivated from a heart of love for God, love of truth, love for the purity of God's people, and love for the eternal welfare of all.       



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