What You Tolerate Dominates
“Cain… sin’s desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
- God (Genesis 4:7)
'One characteristic of this sort of thing is its timidity. That religion may be very precious to some persons is admitted, but never important enough to cause division or risk hurting anyone's feelings. In all our discussions there must never be any trace of intolerance; but we obviously forget that the most fervent devotees of tolerance are invariably intolerant of everyone who speaks about God with certainty. And there must be no bigotry, which is the name given to spiritual assurance by those who do not enjoy it.'
- Tozer - "In praise of Dogmatism"
Tolerance is one of today’s buzz words. You hear tolerance everywhere, with a loyalty card devotees should be able to pick up a halo. At first glance it’s a word that smacks of kindness, peace and unity. In reality, it is a highly complex word, a pivotal verb and stance that will govern the outcome of your life. There are two things we need to understand about the word “tolerance”, and its counter “intolerance”, particularly in this hour. The first is with regard to people, the second is with regard to sin, especially personal sin.
First, people. The Christian is called to love people – all people, every race, colour, age, social class, political persuasion, religion, sexuality. This love will involve tolerance, deeper still, gracious patience, compassion, longsuffering, acceptance. Importantly, my love and acceptance for a person, does not mean I need to agree with their lifestyle or tolerate their behaviour, particularly if it directly impacts me. As Christians we are called to love God, love people and so to hate sin. That’s quite a cocktail that needs the grace and wisdom of God working in our hearts. I’ll say it again; to love God, love and tolerate people and so to hate and be intolerant of sin.
“You who love the Lord, hate evil” - Psalm 97:10
John Wesley said, “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” Conversely, what one generation refuses to tolerate, it renounces and says goodbye to - that thing will lose it’s power over them. Why? This is a spiritual law given to us by God. Made in His image, God has made us to be powerful, autonomous, masters of our appetites and agreements. Tolerance or renunciation either opens the doors of agreement to the enemy or closes them respectively.
From the Beginning
At the beginning of creation Adam and Eve were given free will – the choice by God to obey Him or disobey Him, to say “yes” or to say “no”, to choose life, or death. Love will always provide two trees in the garden. Later on, Cain too was warned by God of his ability to rule and reign over his decisions, to capitulate to jealousy and murder or to rule over it. To be a victim and tolerate sin or to be powerful and do right. "Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." (Genesis 4:7)
The same is true for us today. What you tolerate dominates. Rule or be ruled. Submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee (James 4:7) or submit to the devil and be his slave, whether you like it or not (John 8:34). The kingdom you agree with, you empower (Matt 8:13). Believe truth and you empower the hand of God. Believe a lie and you empower the liar. True freedom is not the freedom to do what I want, it is the freedom (with self-control) to do what is right. AW Tozer said, “It is our wretched habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in our half-dead condition.”
We tolerate sin because we don’t yet hate it. And there lies our deception and ruin.
Listen to the no-compromise line Jesus takes - "And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell." (Matt 18) Jesus said these very strong words out of kindness, through divine wisdom and understanding. Jesus "the healer" is far from advocating self-harm, He is unapologetically stressing the severity of sin and its wages - death and eternal damnation. Jesus comes as Saviour.
What you tolerate in your life, you have bowed in slavery to, and it has (your) permission to master you (Rom 6:16). It's like trying to serve two masters - it's impossible (Matt 6:24). By appeasing and loving one, you will hate the other. What you love will always tell me what you hate. You cannot serve God and tolerate sin.
What about corporate agreement? The apostle Paul writes that what we tolerate in the church, "leavens" the whole lump. Have you ever made bread? Only a little yeast is required and the whole batch is done. "Expel the immoral", unrepentant brother, "don't even have lunch with him." (1 Cor 5:13) The key words here are 'unrepentant' and 'brother'. Paul is not talking about friendship with unbelievers but with so-called Christians, practicing and making an unrepentant habit of sin. God is opposed to the proud but there is always grace for the humble, those who want to turn from their sin and receive healing.
Paul's command to expel offends our inclusive, globalist, morally relativist mindsets. The gospel is inclusive in so far as everyone is welcome to come into the kingdom of God but exclusive in so far as we must come in by God's way (repentance and faith in the finished work of the cross) and carry on in His ways (by abiding in the truth). In Paul’s teaching there is not an ounce of tolerance for a different gospel (Gal 1:6-10), nor for wolves in sheep’s clothing set on devouring the sheep. We are to love all people but operate in discernment and hate evil, for we have an adversary who wants the human race deceived and damned. (John 10:10)
You cannot love God without hating sin. So how far does this intolerance gig stretch? Let me speak for myself. I refuse to tolerate joylessness in my Christian walk, it’s one third of the kingdom! I refuse to tolerate theology that compromises the goodness of God, or getting by in life without the need for regular miracles, or a lack of constant giving to the poor, or a lack of compassion for the broken and sick, or prayerless-ness and a lack of thanksgiving for those in authority. I won’t tolerate any pride and unhealthy dishonour and disconnection with the wider body of Christ. If someone is preaching Christ then it is cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving and these people need my prayer! I will not only tolerate every person’s right to free speech, whether I agree with them or not, whether they are rooted in fear and hatred or not, I will shout their right to it from the rooftops.
I'm on a journey in all of the above. I'm kind and patient with myself in the process. But these agreements are all setting me and those around me more and more free. And I'm a freedom addict, I have a love for holiness. Holiness is my deepest happiness.
So I’ll end by saying it again - Do not be deceived, friends! Counterfeit grace, in the guise of 'tolerance' (today’s western idol, preferred means of self-righteousness and Jezebel’s favourite means of accusing the Ahab church), is eating many Christians alive and destroying large parts of the western church. As stated, we need to go far deeper in love for our fellow man than mere tolerance and we must also pick up the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, and cut all sin out of our lives. No more devil-domination! Instead renunciation of lies and sin, freedom in the truth, and consecration by way of the cross of Christ. I see great freedom, joy, boldness and power in purity and holiness coming to the Bride of Christ. I can hear the chains breaking.