When he has seen the tip of an iceberg, the experienced sailor knows that grave danger lies just beneath the surface.
Such is the case with God’s church in these present times. In the past few decades, our society has witnessed the re-definition of “tolerance” and its subsequent pronouncement as a chief virtue in society. In its classic sense, “tolerance” referred to one’s ability to recognize differing beliefs, even though he or she might strenuously disagree with those beliefs. More recently, “tolerance” has taken on a different meaning — now it refers to the unconditional acceptance of every differing point of view. Additionally, “tolerance” now means that one must acknowledge the validity of all beliefs, practices and philosophies, even when they contradict one another!
To give but one example: the Bible teaches homosexuality is wrong (Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). In the old definition, “tolerance” meant that those who believe the Bible could allow that some would inevitably practice homosexuality, but we would still be free to disagree and to speak out against it (Eph. 4:15). In the new definition of “tolerance,” homosexuality can neither be condemned nor spoken against. “Tolerance” today means that we must accept homosexuality as a valid “alternative lifestyle,” and that we must not pass judgment of any sort upon those who practice it.
The implications of this redefinition can hardly be overstated. Satan is hard at work eroding the very convictions upon which the Lord’s church is founded. Here’s how:
Distorting God’s teaching on judgment — “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” Jesus said in Matthew 7:1. A few well-meaning brethren who are seeking to be “tolerant” have adopted this verse as a credo of sorts. These misguided souls believe (in accordance with the “tolerant” viewpoint) that Jesus forbids us to speak out against anything. Such could not be farther from the truth! In the first place, Jesus is here describing a harsh, negative, fault-finding spirit that will not examine itself first (cf. Matt. 7:1-6). In the second place, did not Jesus teach men to, “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24)? If Jesus forbade us to condemn sin, either publicly or privately, then men such as Steven are lost (cf. Acts 7:51-60). In an effort to be “tolerant,” some have forsaken clear Biblical teaching on how we ought to respond to sin!
Creating a sense of shame in Christianity — Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Advocates of the new definition of tolerance have had great success with applying shameful terminology to Christ’s followers. Words like, “hate,” “fanaticism,” “discrimination,” and “phobia” have been variously applied to Christian behavior in recent years. To fend off the sting of these words, some have begun to move toward “more comfortable” positions. In reality, those who are ashamed of the church are steering their ships directly toward the iceberg of “tolerance.”
Elevating “feeling” to “fact” — We are commanded to, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). To many, it seems Christianity has become something, “better felt than told.” Phrases such as, “I think,” and “I feel” are common among Christians who should instead be echoing the prophets of old: “Thus saith the Lord.” When what we feel becomes my way of determining our behavior, we have taken a giant step toward embracing the milktoast, “tolerant,” point of view.
Satan is hard at work eroding the beliefs that make Christ’s church distinctive. In a desire to appear tolerant, many Christians have expressed a sense of shame at the convictions God intended to make us different from the world. What God’s people need most is the restoration of conviction!
Jesus Christ was not afraid of controversy. As a matter of fact, Jesus was the most controversial person who has ever lived. Imagine — someone who always told people the truth (1 Pet. 2:21-23)! Jesus did not seek out controversy, but neither did He hide His convictions when His trust in God was challenged. Read John 7 and Matthew 22 to get just a sample of the controversy that always seemed to swirl around the Savior. When it comes to standing for Biblical truth, may all Christians recognize the need to be like Jesus. After all, what do we have to be ashamed of?
We wear a controversial name — Christians bear the name of Christ: “they were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). Even today, the name of Christ stirs hatred in the minds of some (cf. John 16:33). However, there is no valid reason to be ashamed of being called a “Christian” — such a name glorifies Christ and brings honor to God.
God’s people are a minority — “Follow not a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2). With only two exceptions (Adam and Noah), God’s people have always been a minority. Why do so many Christians try to find comfort in what “most people” are doing? Fact is, most people are wrong (read Matt. 7:13-14)! Our convictions might be stronger if we thought more about the reality that faithful servants of Christ will always be a minority.
We are not to go along with the world — Amos asked, “can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The children of Israel wanted to be, “like other nations,” and ended up losing their identity as people of God (1 Sam. 8:20). James says that a friend of the world is hostile to God (James 4:4). Jesus says that we are, “not of the world… and the world hates you” (John 15:19). We may be ridiculed for faithfulness to Godly convictions, but we should never be ashamed.
God’s people may be thought judgmental — You cannot go backstage in a man’s life and see his intentions. Jesus warned us not to judge the motives of individuals (Matt. 7:1-6), but in the same context He made it clear that we need to discern (read: judge) the fruit of false teachers (Matt. 7:15-20). In the world’s view, “tolerance” is a supreme virtue and “judgment” is a pejorative term. Christians, however, ought never to be ashamed of speaking out against sin, even if the world accuses us of being “judgmental.”
We cannot promote unity at the expense of Bible doctrine — Along with tolerance, unity is another cardinal virtue of today’s world. Unity is extremely important; so much so that Jesus prayed and died that we could be united in Him (John 17; Ephesians 2). The Bible also teaches, however, that we cannot be united according to man’s agendas. Rather, we are commanded to, “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Romans 16:17 commands Christians to, “note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” We should never be ashamed of teaching the truth, even though some will inevitably reject it.
Satan has been working to erode the convictions of God’s people for many years. What about you? What are you committed to? What will you be unwilling to give up when you are ridiculed for your faith? Eternity waits for your answer. — JB