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Our culture says it values tolerance, but does it? Let's talk.

What is right when it comes to tolerance?

Postby MelDan » Mon May 18, 2015 10:19 am

Hi Jim I have a question. I was looking up verses on tolerance and I got this:

2 Jn. 1.10-11: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

1 Corinthians 5:11: But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister[a] but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

Yet I hear a lot when it comes to Christians being tolerant or intolerant that Jesus sat with sinners and ate with robbers and adulterous people, etc, saying that if jesus does that we should be tolerant of gay rights and stuff. But if 1 Corinthians means what I take it to mean, that makes me a little confused.

I just wanna know what is right when it comes to tolerance. I tend to be very loose about my views on gay rights (not gay marriage just the rights) because honestly I'm afraid to ruin any trust anyone with the opposite view has with me if I am actually wrong. Do you know where the lines between tolerant, accepting and loving are?

Re: What is right when it comes to tolerance?

Postby jimwalton » Mon May 18, 2015 10:58 am

First let's talk generally about tolerance. I think we can all agree that a person has no need to be tolerant of something unless they object to it. I don't tolerate something I accept or I'm indifferent to, because it requires nothing of me. If I agree with it, I don't need to tolerate it. People who agree with homosexual orientation, expression, and relationships in all its forms don't have to tolerate it, since they have no objection to it. Tolerance comes into the picture when when I come across a person or an issue that I have disagreements with.

If tolerance, by definition, requires an initial objection, then conservatives, ironically enough, may be much more tolerant than liberals, since there are so many more things to which they object. And Christians find themselves in a culture and society where tolerance has to be continual practice, since the Bible tells us we are in the world, not of it, and the wheat and weeds will grow together, and the sheep and goats co-exist, and it is not our place to judge those outside of the church (1 Cor. 5.12). The least tolerant person is the person who accepts everything, because they don't have to overcome any internal objections to show respect.

So if tolerance requires an initial objection, it also implies withheld power. If I would stop something if I could, but am powerless to do so, I am not tolerant, merely impotent. True tolerance means I could exercise power to stop it, but voluntarily withhold that power. Christians do this all the time. We don't shoot people who disagree with us; we don't run them out of office; we don't burn their stores We hold back, as we rightly should. Otherwise we would be like ISIS, burning, looting, and killing everything in our path that disagrees with our theology or "sacred" lifestyle.

Relativism takes the position that we have a multitude of views, values, and practices all around us, and draws the conclusion that there is no justifiable way to choose among them, because truth is merely opinion. Tolerance, by contrast, objects to those views, has the power to (possibly) stop it, but withholds that power out of respect for the right of the other person to hold that position.

No moral person tolerates everything. There are issues around us—racism, human trafficking, rape, child sexual abuse, economic injustice, exploitation of women—where freedom of expression and justice collide. Given that everyone (I hope) agrees that some things should NOT be tolerated, the real issue should not be whether one is tolerant or intolerant, but what's included on one's list.

Thus conservative Christians may possibly be the most tolerant people in our country, because of the objections Christians have to the direction and expressions of the culture, and yet Christians show considerable respect for those who hold those positions, despite their disagreement. Our commission is to love one another and make disciples, not to judge.

Christians, then, are not guilty of intolerance due to the nature of our own ideology. We subscribe to truth as it is revealed in the Bible, and think that those who believe otherwise are holding on to falsehood, and yet we live next to each other in harmony all across the nation. Christians do have the public and social force to protest more than they do, and yet they most often withhold that action.

Let's talk about your specific verses. 2 Jn. 1.10-11: First rule: if you're going to prooftext, you have to pay attention to the context. What teaching is John talking about? In verse 9, the teaching he's talking about is that Christ is the standard of Christian teaching as the walk of Christ is the standard for the Christian’s walk. So if somebody comes into your church teaching that we don't really have to pay attention to Jesus (v. 7), THAT'S the person to not let into your church, house, or welcome them. That's a very different issue than the one of homosexuality. This deity of Christ is the very core of our faith. And in that case it's Christianity judging what is heresy, something Christians ARE allowed to be intolerant of.

Let's deal with Jesus. He was incredibly tolerant of anyone outside the kingdom of God. He ate with sinners, cavorted with tax collectors, tolerated the company of prostitutes, and even conversed with women!! And Samaritans! And GENTILES! Jesus seemed to have no rules when it came to sinners. He was extremely tolerant, friendly, loving, and willing to associate, but he always had an agenda: LOVE and TEACH them into the kingdom. This wasn't just party time, but the king on a kingdom mission.

Judgment of the ungodly is God's business at the final Throne. Our job is to love and teach. Jesus hung out with these people are rarely rebuked ANYTHING about their behavior, thoughts, or anything. Think of what he knew, and think of how much he NEVER said.

Now to 1 Cor. 5.11. Notice in the first sentence, "anyone who calls himself a brother..." It's a different story when there are people in the church who are continuing in known sin and sitting next to you as if they are righteous. Paul has no tolerance for that. It's time for appropriate Church Discipline. It's not our place as individuals; the church elders need to deal with situations of habitual and perpetual sin, and we as individuals need to abide by their rulings.

Charles Hodge says, "The meaning is that we are not to recognize such a man in any way as a Christian, even by eating with him. It is not the act of eating with such persons that is forbidden. Our Lord ate with publicans and sinners, but he did not thereby recognize them as his followers. So we may eat with such persons as are here described, provided we do not thereby recognize their Christian character. This is not a command to enforce the sentence of excommunication pronounced by the church by a denial of all social intercourse with the excommunicated. The command is simply that we are not, in any way, to recognize openly wicked men as Christians."

As far as gay rights, it would seem to me that Christians should be tolerant of gay rights in the world. While we think it's wrong, and we can say so, it's not our place to judge those outside the church. We should treat LSGBT with love and kindness, but never with a notion that I agree with them, but that we can be friends despite our radical disagreements.

In the church is a different matter. Those are issues for the church elders to decide and "rule" on, and we, in submission to their leadership, follow their directives IN THE CHURCH.

I hope that helps get the conversation started. Talk more if you want to.
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Re: What is right when it comes to tolerance?

Postby MelDan » Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:12 pm

Thank you. This made things more clear, I think I better read more about this in context, but this all makes more sense, when it's appropriate to speak up or against something and get involved. I always thought tolerance was a negative act but the definition you gave is making me see it in a more positive light. I think this is all much more clear, I'll let you know if I have any more questions come up.

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