The LA police, during the 1992 riots, were driving through areas to just make their present known. They did not arrest those who threw rocks, broke windows, looted stores, set fire to cars and building, and physically abuse them and others. Right before our very eyes, and the eyes of police officers, men and women; young and old were allowed to do whatever they desired, while the police permitted and endured the criminal activity which took place. This type of tolerance was repulsive, and unfortunately, this type of behavior is becoming more predominant in our society today.
The Apostle John wrote a very strong letter to the church of Thyatira, because they tolerated certain evil wicked things. He wrote, “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. (20) But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev 2:19-20). John criticized or admonished the church at Thyatira because they tolerated a woman named Jezebel who promoted false teaching and sinful behavior. Tolerance of sin is destructive to a believer and the church.
Today, the call for tolerance is quite concerning. Webster’s dictionary defines the word tolerate as “to recognize and respect others’ beliefs, practices, etc…without sharing them” and “to bear or put up with someone or something not especially liked.” Traditional tolerance is perfectly compatible with scripture because the traditional understanding of tolerance has meant respecting and protecting the legitimate rights of others, even those with whom you disagree and those who are different from you. Please understand that a healthy tolerance accepts the individual without necessarily approving of or participating in his beliefs or behavior.
Today when you hear the word tolerance used by schoolteachers, news anchors, government officials, activists, and celebrities it almost never refers to the definition of traditional tolerance. A new definition has evolved. New tolerance defines all values, beliefs, lifestyles, and truth claims as equal. In contrast to traditional tolerance, which asserts that everyone has an equal right to believe or say what he thinks is right, the new tolerance asserts that what every individual believes or says is equally right, equally valid. So not only does everyone have an equal right to his beliefs, but all beliefs are equal. All values are equal. All lifestyles are equal.
The Bible makes it clear that all values, beliefs, lifestyles, and truth claims are not equal. It teaches that the God of the Bible is true God (Jer 10:10), that all His words are true (Ps 119:160), and that if something is not right in God’s sight, it is wrong or called sin (Deut 6:18). However, New Tolerance teaches that what is wrong for one person is not necessarily wrong for someone else. It undermines the very essence and meaning of absolute truth. Yet our society has taken tolerance a step further by saying to be truly tolerant you must give your approval, your endorsement, and your sincere support to their beliefs and behaviors of others. Therefore, the goal of new tolerance is not only to achieve acceptance of those persons who are different or who believe or behave differently, but also to force all others to approve of and participate in your attitudes and activities. The consequences of New Tolerance is that if you do not approve and participate in others’ beliefs, behaviors, and lifestyles, then you are likely to be branded as narrow-minded bigots, fanatics, extremists, and hatemonger and subjected to public humiliation and indoctrination. Thus, New Tolerance undermines a person’s faith in the living God and his standard for right and wrong.
What are the implications of new tolerance on the Christian church?
1. It breeds death of absolute truth- America was once guided by Biblical truth, and our morality was judged according to the requirements of the Bible. But now our society says that all truth is relative and subjective, right and wrong differ from person to person.
2. It results in the demise of justice- Justice and the new tolerance cannot coexist because they are complete opposites of each other. Why? Because justice is not possible without absolute truth. In order for someone to say that actions or words are unjust, they are assuming that a moral or absolute truth exists. In a society dominated by new tolerance, justice will be increasingly overshadowed by competing demands of special-interest groups.
3. It creates a privatization of faith- The new tolerance will force religious people to sit in their homes and places of worship and not move beyond these borders. New tolerance expects everyone to keep his or her faith private.
4. It produces the tyranny of the individual- The new tolerance prompts the rights of each and every individual-to the point that one person can obstruct the rights of the majority. One student can object to singing a song in public school that contains references to “God,” and the whole choir will be prohibited from singing it. New tolerance has created a new civil right: the right not to be offended; all that matters is whether someone’s feelings were hurt.
5. It emphasizes on feeling- With new tolerance, feelings have begun to replace fact in human deliberations and decisions; emotions displace reason, and style is winning out over substance.
6. It causes the descent into extremes- If all beliefs, behaviors, lifestyles, and truth claims must be tolerated as equally valid, then even the most outrageous and extreme claims must be granted the same treatment as all others.
How to combat the new tolerance
1. Recognize that there is an absolute truth, and it is God’s Word.
2. Know the truth (God’s Word) so that you can discern right from wrong.
3. Love as Christ love. New tolerance says that loving means approval of, even participation in, that person’s beliefs, behaviors, lifestyle and truth claims. But that is not at all how Christ loved. He did not ignore the erroneous beliefs of others (Matt 22:29), nor agree with or approve of sinful behavior (John 8:11), nor participate in activities He disagreed with. Tolerance says, “You must agree with me.” But Biblical love responds, “I will tell you the truth because I am convinced that the “truth will set you free.” Tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.” But Biblical love responds, “I will disagree with you, but still love you as a person, even when your behavior offends me.”
-Pastor Mike Kotrla