Tolerance used to mean that everyone was entitled to their opinion and that we needed to respect their right to their opinion, even if we didn’t agree with it.
Today, tolerance means that everyone is entitled to have their own opinion, but everyone who doesn’t agree with that opinion, is intolerant!
This is especially true when you hold to a Biblical, Christian worldview on things like same-sex marriages, for example. If you don’t agree with same sex marriage, for example, you are not only intolerant, you are bigoted and homophobic. You are expected to be tolerant of another viewpoint and therefore, you are expected to agree with it.
Of course, the expectation “only flows one way.” You are NOT entitled to your own opinion if you hold to a Biblical, Christian worldview on things and it is perfectly acceptable it seems, for everyone to be completely intolerant of your views and completely opposed to you having your own opinion.
Recently, I was speaking with a leader of a particular ministry in New Zealand and we were discussing the battle for truth. I said to this man that a time is coming, when those who stand for the truth of God’s Word, will be called intolerant. His response surprised me. He simply said, “I don’t think that I want to be thought of as intolerant.”
Later, I thought of what Paul says to the Corinthian Christians. He says in 1 Corinthians 4:16: “I urge you, imitate me.” Then more specifically in 1 Corinthians 11: 1: ” imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
So, on the question of tolerance and with regard to a believer not wanting to be thought of as being intolerant, was Paul tolerant and was Jesus tolerant?
Firstly, Paul was NOT tolerant as we would perceive tolerance. He was not tolerant of those who taught falsehood and who preached false gospels. He declares twice in Galatians 1:8 & 9 about those who preach a false gospel (quoting the Amplified Bible): “let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)!”
Although there are other examples, including naming those who taught error, the account in Galatians with those who were teaching circumcision as a means of salvation is very specific. In Galatians 5:12, Paul says: ” I wish those who unsettle you (with this false teaching) would emasculate themselves!” The Complete Jewish Bible says: “I wish the people who are bothering you would go the whole way and castrate themselves!”
Secondly, if we are to be made into the image and likeness of Jesus, we need to understand that Jesus was NOT tolerant as we would perceive tolerance. His discourse with the religious leaders of the day most times could be considered highly intolerant!
In Matthew 23:27, for example, Jesus says to the religious leaders: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” Then in Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” Hardly “politically correct” and hardly tolerant!
Is God tolerant? Is He tolerant of other gods? Is He tolerant of sin? Is He tolerant of rebellion or falsehood? Is He tolerant of other viewpoints on salvation or on truth? In His dealings with Israel, His chosen possession, is He tolerant when they are unfaithful?
NOT AT ALL. He says in Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7: “you shall have no other Gods before Me.” He says to those who are lukewarm in Revelation 3:16: “because you are lukewarm, neither God nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”
In both the Old and the New Testament, we see that God holds to righteousness and holiness and justice and truth, without compromise and that He is intolerant of anything and anyone who opposes Him and His ways. How quickly we seem to forget Ananias and Sapphira!
Tolerance as it is touted today is a lie that seeks to pull people away from God’s Word as our plumb line and as our standard. It is a lie that will assist the birthing of the One World Church that is being formed on the basis of “unity in diversity” where tolerance of all views is foundational to it’s formation.
If I am to imitate Paul as he imitates Christ and if I am to be like Jesus, then I cannot be tolerant of that which is anti-God and contrary to His Word. If I am to hold to God’s Word as being that which is all “breathed out by God”, where His Word in it’s entirety is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” then I have no choice except to stand against that which is antichrist in nature and intent.
Let us be encouraged by the words of Peter after being beaten and imprisoned for preaching about Jesus and for preaching the truth of God’s Word. When Peter and the disciples were released after their beating, they were told that they were not permitted to speak about the things that they had been preaching about. Peter’s reply in Acts 4:19-20 must be our hearts response today. Peter said: “whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”