Tolerance is a word we hear constantly. It’s applied to anti-bullying in schools, equal rights and anti-discrimination. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s project Teaching Tolerance provides teachers with ideas and materials for teaching these principles in their classrooms. Not only do such projects exist for grade school, but there are also countless organizations, groups and companies that support various aspects of the tolerance movement.
On the surface, it seems like a noble cause. Tolerance even makes sense for Christians to support, and some unquestioningly do so.
Certainly, God doesn’t want a society that allows for bullying and inequality. His Way doesn’t have room for these destructive behaviors. Under his plan all human beings will have the opportunity to receive eternal life.
So why is the tolerance movement something Christians should resist?
A Virtue or Sin?
The teaching of tolerance is supposed to be one of respect and equal opportunity. That’s what makes it confusing for Christians when tolerance goes overboard.
Obviously, it’s wrong for children to be bullied at school no matter what their race or family background. Nor is discrimination based on race, gender, or religion justifiable either. The problem with this movement, however, is that teaching tolerance is also used to teach the acceptance of homosexuality and other sinful lifestyles. Mixed in with a basic respect for our fellow human beings is the tolerance and acceptance of sin. This is unacceptable.
God tells us clearly in both the Old and New Testaments that homosexuality is a sin. In the book of Leviticus God says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22 Leviticus 18:22You shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
American King James Version×).” As we move forward into the New Testament, the book of 1 Corinthians gives a list of the unrighteous who will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9 1 Corinthians 6:9Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
American King James Version×). Among many sins included is that of those who actively live a homosexual lifestyle.
Does this mean that we should hate those that practice homosexuality? Or that God hates the individuals who have committed sin? No!
God hates sin, absolutely, and everyone sins (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
American King James Version×). What He doesn’t want is for us to continue to live in sin (of any kind) and be tolerant of sinful lifestyles. He wants us to repent. In the book of Luke, Jesus Christ stated, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance,” (Luke 5:32 Luke 5:32I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
American King James Version×).
Trade tolerance for righteousness
It can be very hard to fight against the misuse of tolerance because as Christians, we want to be accepted and not discriminated against for our beliefs. That doesn’t mean we can show wholesale support for the tolerance cause, though.
Good teaching mixed with bad teaching is how rat poison is made. 90% of rat poison is not harmful. It’s the small percentage of poison the rats eat along with the edible part that kills them. False teaching is the same. Most of the teaching will be acceptable but a small part will be deadly.
More and more individuals are adopting the tolerance cause and their voices are getting louder and harder to avoid. The Bible may seem out of date, and cruel to them. But thousands of years ago, the Christian leader named Paul instructed the church at Corinth to deal with similar issues. He challenged his congregation to leave behind their sinful life choices, some of which included homosexual as well as heterosexual sin, and become a new creation, formed with the help of God.
Paul taught about a God who is stern, and intolerant of sin, but Who also loves people and wants true happiness for them, built on a system of law that leads to truth.
So what kind of tolerance can we afford to accept?
We should tolerate truth, justice, righteousness, obedience and outgoing love. These can’t fail!