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A Cry for Tolerance – but is it really?

With all the ado surrounding the CEO of Chick-Fil-A’s personal stance on traditional marriage we hear, quite loudly, cries for tolerance. But is tolerance what is really being demanded? No. I don’t think it is.

Let me first start with explaining what tolerance in this context, truly is. Tolerance is defined a few ways in Webster’s but in relation to this topic the one that best defines it is as follows:

2. a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own b : the act of allowing something

Essentially tolerance is the act of allowing others to believe and do certain things while those beliefs or actions conflict with our own. That is tolerance and I will argue Christians seem to have a corner on the market.

This is ironic I realize as we are the ones who are most often called “intolerant”. But we are not. We tolerate other religions. We tolerate the sinful behavior of our neighbor (and ourselves for that matter). We tolerate mockery and scorn. The list goes on…

Our tolerance however is called into question when we speak about the objective nature of things. When we make truth claims about how things are or how things are supposed to be we are automatically thought of as intolerant. And I don’t think I need to rattle off the list of objective truth claims found within the Christian system. I am taking for granted that most who read this will intuit my point.

But yes, our tolerance is called into question when we say things are 1. Right or 2. Wrong. When taking an unwavering stand on certain “hot button” topics it is thought of as intolerant. But if tolerance is understood as what is found in the above definition then taking a stand on something isn’t intolerant it is merely saying that with which we disagree is, well, what we disagree with. And if we think those things should change it still doesn’t follow that we aren’t tolerant of the thing in question. We are. This is made evident in the fact that Christians (in contemporary Western culture – and I think I am saying in all contemporary culture) are not putting people to death for worshiping false gods. We are not stoning people for what they are doing in their bedrooms. What we are doing however is saying false gods are evil and certain bedroom activity is sinful.

Pointing out that something is wrong and should come to an end doesn’t mean we are not tolerating it. What it does mean however is that we care. We care about people who are captive to false gods and the power of sin. We care deeply about them. If we are Christians we can’t help but care which leads me to why I am writing this in the first place. Which is this …

When people are crying out for tolerance what they really want is indifference. They want us not to care. They do want approval (which if we approve of any sinful behavior we as a people – Christians – have ceased to care) but over all they just don’t want us to care about them. People don’t want Christians caring about their sin, the state of their souls, or them in general. Because when we care it nags at their conscience.

They don’t want tolerance, they want apathy.

When people demand that Christians be tolerant what they are really saying is “stop caring.” Why do you care what people do in their bedrooms? Why do you care if people are Atheist or Mormon or Hindu? Why do you care? Why do you care? Why. Do. You. Care?

I would say ultimately because God cares and we being His people have been given hearts that reflect His own. And within those hearts is love and concern for all humanity. Yet we are being asked to do what is impossible. We are being asked not to care about the state of the lost world around us. And speaking of the lost world around us we can now revisit the idea of tolerance.

As I said above we are a very tolerant group. When we consider that everything “of the world” is antithetical to our worldview I’d say we are exceptionally tolerant. But we must not forget to point to the most tolerant of all. God.

Consider how entirely holy and perfect He is yet stands by and permits our rank sinfulness. He tolerates a lot. He is the most tolerant of all. But one day that tolerance will come to an end and only those who belong to Christ will then be tolerated for all eternity. This is why we care, and why the demand for apathy will go unheeded.

We will never cease caring for a lost and fallen world. We will continue to tolerate it but we will never stop caring.

30 Responses to “A Cry for Tolerance – but is it really?”

  1. Well said, Carrie. I especially appreciate this bit, which is what has been on my heart and mind the past week, and why I’ve recoiled most at the Christians who don’t seem to get their own brothers’ and sisters’ motives:

    “Pointing out that something is wrong and should come to an end doesn’t mean we are not tolerating it. What it does mean however is that we care. We care about people who are captive to false gods and the power of sin. We care deeply about them. If we are Christians we can’t help but care…”

  2. Leslie Jebaraj August 3, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Poignant post, Carrie!

  3. Well thank you both so much for taking time to read it!

  4. If the people you are “caring” for consistently tell you that you are hurting them, and you seem to be driving them away from your “caring” community of faith, maybe you’re doing it wrong. Maybe the people you supposedly care for should be allowed to define for you what caring might look like. Or at least be in the conversation. At best, this kind of “caring” seems condescending, and it does not communicate to any LGBTQ person that they will be “cared for” by conservative Christianity. Quite the opposite.

  5. Well the problem is Doug, we are not to define how we are to care for people. It is not up to us.

    As Christians we are instructed to care for people and one of the most obvious means is by way of showing them their sin and the remedy for it.

    That is the most caring thing anyone can do.

  6. Excellent article, Carrie. The conclusion is particularly striking as one reflects on the power of God in his patience and self-restraint toward sinful humanity in order to give them space to repent in His tolerance. The Puritan Stephen Charnock reports that the Jews say that Michael [the angel], the minister of justice, flies with one wing, but Gabriel, the minister of mercy, with two.

    “The power of God is more manifest in his patience to a multitude of sinners, than it could be in creating millions of worlds out of nothing; this was the δυνατόν αύτου, a power over himself.” — Stephen Charnock, “On God’s Patience,” in The Existence and Attributes of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2:482.

  7. And for the record (perhaps I should actually put this at the end of the post) I do not forsee my having any time to interact with comments. I will do what I can but I have a lot of things to do here at work and then my weekend is packed solid.

    So apologies in advance for what may be preceived as indifference to opposing views.

  8. Wow Tony. Thank you for that excellent quote!

  9. Doug. You can use emotion in that way to control everyone. Doug. I find it hurtful that you tell me to not evangelize the way I am doing. Therefore, you should not say that.

  10. I moved away from Christianity because of the high pedestal on which Christians put themselves. I don’t think there is such a thing as false gods. Furthermore, I definitely do not think the fact that the person you love has any bearing whatsoever on God’s love for you. I give you credit for giving voice to something that most people probably do actually want, apathy. They do just want to live their lives in peace no matter how they choose to do that and they want equal rights to do so. I don’t think they want you caring whether or not they will or will not be tolerated by God. Please continue to pray and care for people’s health and happiness because that shows tolerance and an unwavering love for all people, but please do not pray because what you think I am doing is not in God’s will.

  11. It is a great post thank you. I think sometimes we forget that the best answer is the biblical answer shared with love and compassion. I do not have to agree with a sinnful lifestyle, but I do have to show the person living that way the love of Christ.

  12. Doug, is it truly loving & caring to tell people what they want to hear or to tell them what they need to hear? Though they may not recieve it, it is still our responsibility to speak out the truth, in love, but the truth must be spoken.

    [18] For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
    (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV)

  13. Sarah. In your deconversion, did you ever find evidence that disproved the resurrection of Jesus?

  14. Carrie, respectfully, I’m not sure that the most caring thing we can do for someone is show them their sin. I would say that the most caring thing we can do is demonstrate God’s love to them. That doesn’t mean accepting their sin, and at times, He might call us to confront a person about their sin, but perhaps God has not called us to be everyone’s Holy Spirit. Do we confront every person about their sin? For example, when you know heterosexual people who are sexually active and/or living together outside of marriage, do you tell them about their sin? When you see people divorcing unbiblically, do you confront them?

    The sin that many evangelical Christians seem to get the most upset and vocal about is homosexuality, but I confess that I don’t see a Scriptural basis for that being the one sin that we should make our cause.

    Jesus said in Matthew 7:6: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” I also see that in the Gospels, Jesus was most likely to direct criticism or anger toward unbelieving or hypocritical religious leaders, not the unbelieving, sinning, common people. Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you. Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” Proverbs 23:9 says, “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”

    You mentioned that Christians tolerate the sinful behavior of our neighbors. I think that it’s God who tolerates the sinful human race (as you say near the end); I think we are to be more concerned about our own sin.

    I’m not afraid to have a respectful conversation about Scripture when I believe it’s something that God has called me to. Right now, I’m having an ongoing conversation with my sister about psychics, which she believes are good and helpful.

    But when we speak confrontationally, that’s the spirit in which people will respond.

  15. Kaycee, the most caring thing we as Christians can do is warn people of what they will face if they reject Christ.

    And yes we should point out people’s sins. We have to, as it is part of the very Gospel that saves us.

    If we are not telling people they are sinners, then we aren’t following a clear mandate within Scripture.

    Pointing out that we are sinners is one of the kindest things we can do. Pointing sinners to their remedy is the ultimate act of human kindness.

    Also, nothing in my post would indicate that I don’t think we are to deal with our own personal sin. To bring it up is a red herring.

    Your comment regarding God tolerating the sinful human race is only partially true Kaycee. We as Christians tolerate sin as well. It is this false either/or thinking that gets us Christians into so much trouble.

  16. Good post Carrie.

    Christians are to confront the sins the culture is promoting. They are to be wise in doing so, but Christians may often be louder in the public square where the devil is loudest.

    Individually, we are probably better to focus the calling out of sin on those within the church rather than without.

  17. Problems posting apologies for the duplicate

  18. no worries :)

  19. Carrie, there’s quite a bit of difference between telling someone about the gospel (that we all are sinners and separated from God, unless we accept God’s grace and Jesus’ atonement for our sin), and confronting them about specific sins. You and I will have to disagree that confronting people about specific sins is a good way to show them that God loves them and communicate the Gospel to them.

    I don’t think it’s our role to confront unbelievers about specific sins. Our message to them should be the gospel. It is their sin nature that separates them from God, not specific sins. Holiness is not the way to Christ…..Christ is the way to holiness. Instruction about sinful behavior is instruction in righteousness, and righteousness does not come before salvation.

    I certainly didn’t intend my comment about focusing on our own sin to be a red herring. I meant it sincerely; that instead of focusing on the specific sins of other people, particularly of unbelievers, we should focus on our own sins.

    I guess I don’t know how to express what I meant when I said that it is God who tolerates sin. I think it is presumptuous for a person to say we are tolerating the sins of others. It is like saying that we have done something about this problem of sin, and it is a personal offense against us. I am distressed about how the openness of homosexuality and the push to accept it is affecting the world in which my children are raising my grandchildren. It’s one of many things that distress me, but certainly not the most important. But I think some Christians are making the situation worse and creating divisiveness by the way they speak to and about gays and lesbians.

    You didn’t respond to some of my other comments. I realize you said that you wouldn’t have time to respond to everyone, but I would be interested in your response to my other comments, and the Scriptures I included.

  20. Hi Kaycee,

    I am not advocating we take to the streets to tell gay people in particular that their sin is exceptionally evil. But I am not willing to say it isn’t sinful because it is.

    The bigger problem we are seeing in our society and even in our churches if the failure to say certain things are sinful (which I think the primary motivation is the fear of man.)

    Bringing up personal sin is a red herring in light of the context of the point I am making.

    The point of this post was not to talk about how sinful homosexuality is and skirt the issue of my own sinfulness.

    The point of this post was to discuss the lack of understanding of what tolerance is and that if we say things are in fact sinful, it doesn’t denote intolerance.

    The passages of Scripture you provided support the comments that overall don’t address the point I was making in my post, so for me to interact with those would be to go off the main topic I presented.

    Seeing as how I have explained what I was driving at in my post, does it help in understanding why I am not interacting with the other thoughts you shared?

  21. Ultimately, Kaycee, my post is not about “focusing on people’s sin”. It is about tolerance and apathy. The mention of sin was to point out that in a fallen world, we are confronted with sin everyday and as Christians we tolerate it (and yes I said even in our own lives.) That we are called intolerant because we think certain things are wrong is misguided. We think things are wrong and seek to stand up for such things because we care (and we ultimately care, because God cares.)

    Your comments are essentially not addressing what I am speaking to so it is difficult and time-consuming to veer off in directions that the initial post never intended.

  22. I think it is the apostle Paul we should all be upset with, he seemed to get so bent out of shape in Romans 1 about one sin in particualar, he does mention others as well, but maybe he shouldnt be pointing out what is sin…..

  23. Carrie,

    Yes, that does help me understand why you didn’t want to reply to my other points, and yes, I did miss that the point you wanted to write about was tolerance (not for lack of you making that point in your blog). I was thinking about the issue in terms of everything I have been seeing and hearing from many Christians, and responded as such. Sorry for inadvertently trying to hijack your blog.

  24. Oh not a problem Kaycee. I don’t think you were doing it maliciously by the way. And the points you made are viable in the context of another discussion. In fact I wouldn’t disagree with the bulk of them provided there were further qualifications.

    Thank you for reading and taking the time to interact.

  25. It seems like the “persecution” will only get worse, as it is obvious more and more people who used to be anti-gay or neutral on this particular issue are becoming pro-gay. A lot of people now view anti-gay belief as equivalent to racism. At some point, Christians holding to the orthodox view that homosexuality is a sin will be reviled as the worst scum of the earth, much like racist bigoted Nazis.

    On the bright side, we shall know who are the true believers amongst our midst.

  26. Good post, Carrie. I would add that beyond not wanting us to care, what they really want is for us to approve. You have made a good point: “People don’t want Christians caring about their sin, the state of their souls, or them in general. Because when we care it nags at their conscience.”

    The more people approve of a sinner’s particular sin the more it soothes the conscience of the sinner. God doesn’t want us to approve of ANY sin. Homosexuality just happens to be currently in the limelight due to the gay marriage proposal.

    God has a few things to say about this. Those who are calling Christians intolerant might want to consider God’s perspective as recorded in Romans 1:

    “Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve of those who practice them. Therefore, you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things. And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you have contempt for the wealth of His kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!……
    They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Jesus Christ.”

    Some people judge Christians, calling them intolerant, hateful bigots. God will judge them by…

  27. Susan yes I agree. There seems to be a demand for approval.

    I really should have taken that point and made it more clear how asking Christians for acceptance and approval of sinful behavior is asking us to be apathetic about not only them but our own beliefs.

    To demand that Christians approve of anything that is contrary to God’s character is to demand we not live by our conscience and conviction – essentially a demand for us to be apathetic towards the very things of God we are compelled to care about.

  28. Right, to approve of anything that God calls sin is to stand proudly in judgment of God and to be in opposition to Him! Therefore, when a homosexual demands that Christians approve of their behavior they are asking us to deny who we really are, and who God has revealed Himself to be. God is holy and righteous. He calls us to righteous living by His standards. This is foundational to being a Christian, as is love. However, we are not to sacrifice conformity to God’s standards in order not to offend another person’s desire to continue in that which He calls sin. That is not loving. We can’t approve of the sin, but we can love the sinner. Sometimes this will involve voicing the truth about the sin, in love.

  29. Dear Carrie,
    I do hope that you can receive this with the spirit of love that is intended. Actually, I wish that I did not feel so compelled to comment. Your post deeply upset me. Although I do believe that you put a lot of heartfelt effort and thought into your words, I believe you are wrong on many of your statements: severly wrong. However, I do believe that the right thing to do is NOT to force my position upon you. I want to allow you to believe and act differently than myself, if you so choose.

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  1. Excerpt from “A Cry For Tolerance – But Is It Really?” « Awaiting Epiteleo - August 13, 2012

    […] Here is the excerpt from the article I used at the gathering on Sunday.  You can read the full article here. Pointing out that something is wrong and should come to an end doesn’t mean we are not […]

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