tolerance isn't what it used to be.

Christians should not be tolerant. We should be a lot of things, but tolerant is not one of them. There are too many tolerant Christians, you know?

Since I work well with progression (and I'll move from less to more Christ-like), I want to use some words I hear that describe Christians sometimes.

  • Prejudice - an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. I know Christians like this, and I bet you do too. We will all admit, however, that Christians should never be prejudice. Its not technically a crime. There is no charge-able offense in simply thinking in a prejudice way. But that doesn't make it right. Prejudice Christians size someone up before they even meet them. This is mostly where we go wrong. That guy dressed funny on the corner? He isn't worth as much to our church as the pin-striped CEO right? Or maybe we have a problem with different ethnicities or pedigree? And one more thing - the second you think you aren't prejudice, please step back, quit being so defensive, and ask yourself how you can know someone better. Because chances are prejudice is the opposite of knowledge - the less you know, the more likely you'll be prejudice. And the best way to know them. Talk to them. Be around them. Get to know who they are. Don't read about "their kind" in a book. That doesn't count. But once you stop being prejudice, you might become...
  • Tolerant - a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry. (I would say, tolerant, but that definition is simply having tolerance, which gets us nowhere.) Christians are sometimes called bigots. A bigot is someone who is completely intolerant of another person who is different. Well - are we bigoted or not? I think its a simple question. Because regardless of whether you ARE or AREN'T, if someone else thinks you are, their perception is enough. Sorry, back to tolerance... Some people think Christians should be tolerant. Christians should be fair, objective, and permissive. Hmmmm. For others, tolerance sounds like a dirty word that immediately labels anyone who is tolerant as "liberal" which sometimes could be used as a four letter word. Whichever way you feel about tolerance - you are in luck, Christians aren't supposed to be tolerant any more than they are supposed to be prejudice. Sure, being tolerant is better than being prejudice, but its not where we stop.
I believe Jesus calls us to something more than just tolerance for other people. We should be loving.

Imagine if Jesus were tolerant of Romans. Sometime tells me he would not have welcomed Centurions into his fellowship.

Imagine if Jesus were tolerant of sinners. He would have kept them at arms length and not actually eaten with them or laughed with them or shared God's love with them. See, people who are tolerant allow other groups of people to exist concurrently with little to no care for what happens to them. Christians that tolerate non-Christians really don't give a rip for those they tolerate - or else we wouldn't call it tolerating them. Christians should always be welcoming. They blur the line between the haves and the have-nots. They purposely try to reach out to those who have been pushed to the outside.

Truth is, Jesus was never tolerant. He was more than that - he was loving.
  • Loving - (and btw, there are 28 different definitions according to the dictionary I'm looking at, but I picked the one that applies) a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. Could you imagine what would happen if Christians stopped tolerating and started loving? The Kingdom of God would happen on Earth. If I were personally attached to someone different than me, that would alter the way I live. If I had deep affection for someone who didn't believe like I did, but was in my life, why would it matter if they think differently?
Now I know what you are thinking, my wonderful Christian friends. You are saying to yourself that Jack is right...inside the church, everyone should be welcome. But this just doesn't make sense in life. Jack, you've overstepped your bounds. Okay, silly man, in the church, all are welcome. But not in the real world. And not in Church leadership. Right? Right?

Well, I will grant you that this is not easy. This is a tough teaching that you and I will have to wrestle with. But don't sell God short or yourself short by playing like the Church is some kind of building. We all know that the buildings are only as good as the people who are in them. God has decided not to live in buildings anymore, but in human hearts. As the Holy Spirit moves in you and you become more like Christ, the church goes wherever you go. SO! Don't just be tolerant, be loving, and welcome someone into your life (the Church) that maybe you are pushing out.

I actually preached about this issue this weekend with Acts 10:32-48 - the sermon is below. Be more than tolerant! ;) ha!


  1. I loved the sermon. I like to see you all fired up! I am more tolerent & in all honesty prejudice. Rarely loving. I will try more....

  2. good words. esp:

    "Christians aren't supposed to be tolerant any more than they are supposed to be prejudice."

    Not long ago, I took down some fliers in bathroom for a anti-gay group that was protesting on our campus. Picture the sort of 'group' that walks around with big signs shouting out their 'beliefs' (not quite "Phelps-like" but close enough). I posted in my blog about how angry I was that they posted such crap on campus- fliers full of lies and filth.

    Someone, a good friend I have who does not support gay rights, gave me a hard knock about it- saying that I wasn't being tolerant of the opposing view.

    All that to say this:
    I think as Christians we are called to speak up for the oppressed (Psalm 10:17-18), we are called to speak out against falsehoods (Psalm 31:18), and we are called to love (John 8:34).

    If being tolerant means I have to oblige the views of some who claim to know Christ but then choose to speak falsehoods, and seek to oppress rather than to love others- then no, sorry, I'm pretty intolerant to all that.

  3. Great message, but let's not confuse "loving" with "never correcting."

    Welcoming people into Christ's body is exactly what we are called to do, but ignoring the dark areas in our lives is not loving. Since I care about the well-being of those around me, I also care about the choices they make and the consequences of those choices on themselves, others, and their relationship with God. Tolerance is ignoring those decisions, good or bad.

    I think a good follow-up sermon would be to show what Christian "loving" looks like, and point out that Jesus did call people to come out of their sinful ways. Why? Because he loved them.

  4. Good idea ut3rdgen, on the follow-up sermon.

    Could you to give some examples of Jesus calling people to out of their sinful ways?

    I can only recall times when he corrected the pharisees (the churched). Concerning those not 'in the church', in John 4, he approaches the woman at the well, but he doesn't correct her, he only reveals what she already knows. That's not correction so much as it's revelation and (possibly) conviction (there is no part when he says that she 'should be married' or that she is sinning- possibly this is the case, but we often put our own 'take' on this story, I'm just looking at the words, not the interpretations, personally, I don't see him ever correcting her).

    I only ask for your examples because when I hear people speak on loving and correcting others, many people direct it towards those outside the church (or in the church, but those who don't 'fit the mold') whereas Christ typically directed his corrections towards the established church and their hyprocrisy (the pharisees, see Luke 11).

    In other words, I've been on the wrong side of some people who have used personal convictions or interpretations to 'correct' myself and others (albeit out of good intentions), not always recognising that it's not only unwelcome, it's unnecessary. Compare this with Matthew 18, in which we see a section of scripture about confronting a brother who's sinned "against us" specifically: ie, 'Hey, you stole my car. Not cool.'

    In other words, we are directed to approach someone who's directly wronged us, not someone we merely 'disagree' with. To me, when I hear you say, "I also care about the choices they make and the consequences of those choices on themselves, others, and their relationship with God.", I can't help but hope you mean specifically things that wrong you, and not merely things that you disagree with or have personal conviction against.

    I think the point I'm trying to make is that unless we possess the wisdom of Christ, perhaps we are best to "Judge not", excluding times when we've been personally wronged. The work of 'conviction' is not ours to do, and when we attempt it- we will almost always get it wrong.*

    *This is making the assumption we aren't talking about things like rape, stealing, murder- ie, the obvious. More or less I'm talking about the things many Christians take it upon themselves to 'correct' others about, things that are often disagreed upon because of interpretation or personal conviction.

  5. amen again... are you preaching this Sunday?

  6. @amywithlemon
    Great thoughts, but I think that our unwillingness to deal with sin in church, and for the church to extend grace to those who repent, is one of the reasons why the church has stopped being effective. If you need a specific example, look at John 5. Those outside of the church can not be held to the same standards as those in the church because they have not expressed a commitment to follow Christ and desire to turn away from sin.

    Furthermore, why do you choose only the "obvious" sins like rape, murder, and stealing to single out for correction? What if you know that someone in your church is abusing drugs/alcohol or sleeping around on his wife/her husband? Should we ignore them and say "who are we to judge?" Should we ignore those who treat the poor with contempt? Should we not speak up for those who have been wronged and do not have a voice because it is "not our place to judge?"

    My point is that if those who belong to the body of Christ have sinned, why is it NOT the place of the church to provide correction?

    It sounds like you have been hurt by "correction" and I am sorry to hear that if it was done unlovingly. Like you, I have seen correction not done very well, but I have also witnessed great transformation in the lives of Christians (myself included) who have gone through that.

  7. Please excuse the double post but one more thought came to mind that I hope will be helpful to you amywithlemon.

    I base this whole "correction" thing on the example set by the early church. Look at Acts 2:42-47 or most (if not all) of the letters written to the new believers. Everyone had everything in common-- meaning, their lives were not their own, not "private" as we Americans seem to prefer. Part of the function of those letters was to openly correct sinful behavior in those churches.

    There is also a difference between judging others in terms of "who is worthy to enter heaven" and correcting sinful behavior. We are not supposed to claim to know what is written on each others' hearts, but we are supposed to, in humility, hold each other (those who are part of the Body) accountable to live a life in pursuit of righteousness before God.

  8. double posts are always welcome when they are such wonderful comments ;)

    I'd comment myself, but I want to stay out of the way for the time being... please, keep it up! I'm being stretched (which is a good thing)

  9. To answer:

    I would think that if I were privy to any of that information, it would be ridiculous NOT to speak up. When I said "obvious" I meant things such as what you speak, and the things we know (even as kids) to be wrong: don't steal, don't harm people, etc...

    But, when you say, "in humility hold each other accountable to live a life in pursuit of righteousness before God." See, that's where it gets 'fuzzy'. Because different people/religions/sects have differeing definitions of a life pursuing righteousness. I contend, that it is the people who (whether well-intentioned or not) feel it is their 'place' as a saint to rebuke another follower of Christ for things that are discernable for the Christian: believing in evolution, for supporting gay rights, for being pro-choice, for being gay, for enjoying a drink, etc; and believing that by correcting their brother they are helping them in their pursuit of righteousness. I find this self-righteous and harmful.

    Being a Christian is being a "follower of Christ". There is no greater example of what a Christian is to be or do than Christ himself. We must trust the wisdom he's granted us to discern various interpretable cultural issues- free from condemnation, and in the grace that only Christ offers.

    "When we know better, we do better."

    -Maya Angelou

  10. (And I'm not sure if we aren't suppposed to 'double post or not' but I thought I'd comment on this, since you brought it up)

    "Should we ignore those who treat the poor with contempt?"

    To bring up a point on tolerance: Many people use verses concerning the destruction of Sodom as 'biblical evidence' of God condemning homosexuality, however, Ezekiel 16:49 states: "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy."

    I find it a curiousity that in reality, Sodom was actually guilty of something that sounds much more like "Christian America" than "Decadence Fest".

    Unfortunately, Christians tend to be much more tolerant of prosperity than homosexuality.

    I often wonder why some church's take such a strong stance on the issue of homosexuality, yet don't seem to take issue with the fact that we are all currently guilty of Sodom's sin.


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