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Easter’s Message of…Not Tolerance

Easter’s Message of…Not Tolerance

I hate tolerance.

Wikipedia (the source for all things cultural, of course), defines tolerance as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.” The United Nations’ Declaration of Principles on Tolerance defines tolerance as “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.”

Sounds good, right? Who doesn’t want a world free from bigotry, where appreciation of the world’s cultural diversity reigns?

Sadly, that is not what “tolerance” functionally means, in our society.

This postmodern by-word, culturally synonymous with “equality” and “acceptance”, makes me cringe. Why? Because it is the smoke screen for a philosophy that threatens the moral foundation of our society. And because it hides, behind politically correct, assuaging rhetoric, an insidious animosity toward objective truth and moral absolutes.

Unfortunately, tolerance has become the rally cry of liberal secular progressivism, and a means by which to usher in a culture of moral relativism. Billed as fairness and equanimity, the philosophy of tolerance demands that all moral views and behaviors be equally accepted as valid. Tolerance exhibits the belief that my views and ways of living are just as good as your views and ways of living, because there is no objective “right” and wrong”; there is only what is right for you and what is right for me.

Unless, of course, your views conflict with the values of tolerance. Then they are not to be tolerated.

And therein lies the problem. The philosophy of tolerance has a “permissive attitude” toward those whose opinions and practices adhere to a worldview that there is no absolute truth and that morality is not tied to any fixed core or higher standard. However, tolerance is often used as a bludgeon against those who believe and live according to universal guideline for moral reality.

Ironically, cultural tolerance is actually only tolerant of those who agree that everything should be tolerated.

As Easter draws near, I cannot help but be staggered by how different Christ’s message was from the message of tolerance.

Far from the declaration that there is no objective truth, Jesus said:

  • I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).”
  • “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me (John 18:37).”
  • “When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16).”

In contrast to the principle that what is necessary is a “fair and permissive attitude” toward others, Christ said:

  • “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13).
  • “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little (Luke 7:47).”
  • “He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’(Luke 10:27).”

In opposition to the idea that every attitude and expression is equally permissible and valid, Jesus proclaimed:

  • “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20)”.
  • “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50)”.
  • “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14).”
  • “If you love me, keep my commands (John 14:15)…” If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love (John 15:10).”

No, Christ called people to so much higher than tolerance. He called people to love and to righteousness.

Tolerance is, at its core, not grounded in the well-being of others, but in selfishness. It is, under the guise of “acceptance” and “non-judgment”, a means by which humans can live for themselves. Its laissez-faire “live and let live” underpinnings ultimately jettison true human connection, honor, and respect. The intricacies of being convicted of and repenting of one’s own biases and sins in order to engage with and put the well-being of others first are denigrated to simply “You can do what you want as long as you let me do whatever I want.”

Tolerance does not truly seek the best interest of others. It seeks the freedom for self.

Christ calls us to not simply “accept”, but to love. He calls us to not simply “respect” everyone else’s actions or attitudes as equally valid, so that we can live however we choose – but to become sanctified, to become righteous by living His Truth. Jesus’ message is that none of us can live up to the objective standard God sets, and because of that, we are to accept Him and what He did on the cross to procure our righteousness. And once we accept His gift, we can no longer be content, ever again, to live and be anything less than what and who He is – holiness and love.

Romans 3:25-26 says, “25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Living as Christ calls us – to love and righteousness – puts self aside for the cause of Christ. It is the gritty, raw, honest discipline of daily subjecting one self to God’s truth and will. Nothing about the walk of faith corresponds to the lukewarm platitudes of tolerance: “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:38).” There is no “live and let live” here. There is only “I will die so you can live”. This Truth, this objective Holiness, this divine Standard is so real and so powerful that God Himself came to earth to die so we could obtain it.

He didn’t tolerate, He loved. He didn’t treat us fairly; He bestowed mercy. He wasn’t permissive, He forgave. He didn’t accept, He redeemed.

Tolerance accepts as long as you don’t infringe on it. Love is willing to die to put you first, even if you are the one doing the killing.

This Easter, you can keep your tolerance. Because I, for one, want the philosophy of the cross. And with it, I will exchange “acceptance” and “equality” for unmerited, unfathomable grace. Because tolerance will get you the empty gift of self, but Christ’s love and righteousness will give all who choose it the gift of magnificent life.

One Response to “Easter’s Message of…Not Tolerance”

  1. polly says:

    Yes and yes. Having a discussion with a moral relativist becomes fatiguing; what it boils down to is “my worldview is just completely different from yours”….

    I’m one chapter into a book you might like–The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. I’ve already scribbled down 2 pages of quotes from that *one* chapter. Background story is that she was a radical-left, feminist, lesbian professor, tenured at Syracuse U, who slowly (over the course of a friendship with an older pastor and his wife, who never invited her to church, but invited her to dinner at their house regularly and engaged her mind) came to realize that she was wrong. Very wrong. And God overhauled her from inside out in that way that only HE can do….amazing.

    Now she and her husband (Reformed Pres pastor) have several children who are homeschooled. 🙂

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