Mention the word “tolerance” and you are likely to get some interesting responses. Most of those responses will focus on how people have the “rights” to think, believe or act however they choose. In this view, tolerance is all about my rights and thinking on a given topic. At first, that may sound pleasant or even socially acceptable but in fact it is rotten to the core. When people who view tolerance this way apply what they think, the result is to exclude those who believe in absolute truth and absolute morals.
I was at a coffee shop I frequent often and the manager and I began to talk about Christianity. She knew I was a Christian and a ministry leader. When I go to a coffee shop I come with a backpack full of books along with my laptop. On this particular day, this manager and I were chatting when all of the sudden it became clear that she didn’t want to talk about Christianity any further. It became evident that she wanted to think how she wanted and wasn’t going to consider a thing I said, yet expected that I was supposed to consider everything she said. One time I was chatting with my neighbor who is a Mormon and I got the same sense that I was supposed to take everything he said as truth but when I made arguments for the exclusivity of Christ or highlighted to my atheist friend about the character of God, I was immediately discounted. These situations and many others like them lead me to think that people think it’s okay to think however you want, but if you make exclusive, absolute claims about matters of truth and faith then you will be viewed increasingly as a non-intellectual.
The argument goes, “Faith is private so keep it to yourself”. That sounds good at first glance. Let’s all keep quiet about what we believe as after all, isn’t faith a personal issue? The truth though is no one is quiet about what they believe. Is Oprah quiet about what she believes? Is Ellen DeGeneres quiet about what she believes? Is Piers Morgan quiet about what he believes when he interrogates Christian leaders on his television show? It seems like our liberal media can use its bully pulpit to proclaim that everyone has a right to think how they want, but when Christians make exclusive claims about God, the Bible, or Jesus according to the foundation of biblical Christianity, they are immediately discounted and treated as second class citizens. Yet the “enlightened” ones want us to believe everything they say without question and just soak in their magnificentness. The truth of the matter is not only does the liberal media not believe that faith is “private”, they are among the loudest in our culture in regards to proclaiming what they believe.
Look at Hollywood, look at the talking heads on TV, on talk show programs or any other media outlet. Are they not spewing what they believe all over the place and don’t people soak it up like its gospel? Yet, when a Christian who believes the Bible and stands firmly for the Gospel speaks out about matters about gay marriage from the Bible or other such issues, what happens? They are told to be quiet or else they will have their arguments drowned out by the talking heads, cultural philosophers, or other members of the cultural elite. Our secular culture says, “How can they believe such a thing as the Bible is the Word of God and Jesus is a only Savior who saves people?” Here’s the thing — everyone believes something and no one is silent about what they believe either so the idea that “faith is private” and you are to be quiet is really a rather silly, not to mention a childish and untenable argument. Yet, Christians are treated this way in the public square all the time.
This is why the language of tolerance isn’t really tolerant, or as D.A. Carson said, “the intolerance of tolerance” in his book by the same title. Tolerance is intolerant because those who advocate for tolerance suggest they are the gatekeepers of truth. Whenever anyone says anything intolerant or if a Christian such as myself speaks or writes about gay marriage or other issues, they are shouted down, told they are wrong and immediately labeled a “bigot”, “misguided” or any number of unsavory labels. Should this surprise Christians? Imagine for a second your eyes are closed and you are taking a stroll somewhere. You try to walk but you keep bumping into things over and over again. This is exactly what the lost are like. They are fumbling around in the dark looking for anything and everything their heart desires. The Bible speaks to this idea in Ecclesiastes 3 when Solomon calls seeking after the world and its pleasure “vanity and grasping for the wind”. Is tolerance really tolerant? If you believe tolerance is tolerant then you are living in a world where truth must be abandoned because your truth is inconsistent. If we apply the standards of truth to the worldview of tolerance, it crumbles like shifting sand. The truth is that tolerance is another word for the spirit of this age which longs for teachers who will tickle people’s ears but never give them the truth from the Word of God.
Christians have a superior Word and message than that of the so-called tolerance of this age. Paul spoke about this in 2 Timothy 4. He told us to preach the Word (vs.2). Paul told us to stand in the grace of God (1 Cor. 15) because we are in a war (Ephesians 6:10-18). Yet, beyond the position of tolerance are people who need Jesus. By the standards of the new tolerance, the biblical Jesus was the epitimey of a bigot as He called people “brood of vipers” and “the blind leading the blind”. Jesus also spoke more about hell than anyone else in the Bible combined. Was Jesus tolerant? Would Jesus be considered tolerant according to the spirit of this age? The answer is a resounding no and yet people in our culture think of Jesus as some prophet or teacher but refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord in and over all.
This is telling to me and it shouldn’t be surprising to Christians either. Non-Christians are stumbling about in the darkness with their eyes closed, feeling their way around, and being led by their hearts desires. The world along with its value system and moral code is under the power of darkness. Yet even here Christians have a superior Word and message in the Gospel that pierces the hearts of men and women committed to the world system and its false gospel. The Gospel pierces the heart of man and when it does, it replaces the false gospel of tolerance and inclusivism with a message that is exclusive and restricted only to those who believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and only by believing in Him can one be saved. Jesus, just as He did in the first century, is still lighting a fire under people because He is more than just a revolutionary, He is more than just some teacher and prophet. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Jesus is coming back to rule and reign over the throne of David but before that day, He will smite all His enemies from one end of the battlefield to the other with the sword which is His Word. Is that Jesus tolerant enough for the spirit of the age? Or does that Jesus offend you, prick your conscience, unsettle you, and even scare you? If so, are you ready to meet that Jesus or will you walk away from Him just as the religious people of Jesus’ day did? Jesus calls people to Himself and those who hear His voice will come but those who are not His will reject Him. The Good Shepherd knows those who are His and He saves them, but He also knows those who aren’t His and weeps for them and in love speaks the truth that hell is a place of unending and unrelenting conscious punishment.
You may think that Christianity is intolerant but the truth is that those who hold to the view that tolerance is a virtue are the ones who are intolerant. Tolerance is not a virtue, conversely, it is a lie designed to keep people enslaved to their sin. Jesus comes with a powerful Word that cuts through the fog that opens the eyes of those who are stumbling about living how they please. Jesus opens such people’s eyes as He did with the Apostle Paul by showing them the horror of their sin and the glory of Christ in the Cross.
Dear Christian, make no mistake. We are living in days that are challenging, but rest assured that we also live in a day of great harvest. Stand firm on the authority of the Word of God and declare the message of the Gospel. Jesus is alive, the tomb is empty, and Jesus is ruling and reigning as His people’s High Priest. The Holy Spirit is still in the business of opening people’s eyes to the truth about Jesus, of convicting His people of their sin, and pointing them towards the truth of Jesus. The Gospel is still the power of God! Preach the Gospel all the more in a culture that says tolerance is a virtue and yet rejects its own conviction through its own inconsistency. Shout all the more from the rooftops and declare the sufficiency of Jesus to a culture that would rather celebrate its own pride and self-sufficiency.