The other day, I was in our small town at a ladies clothing store. While I was there, a person walked in, who was undeniably a man, dressed up as a woman. He was very tall, had large hands and feet, and a deep baritone voice, in spite of obviously trying to talk quietly and in a higher pitch. When “she” came into the same dressing room area that I was in, I got out of there in a hurry! I began praying for this man who was so obviously unhappy! You could tell that the clothes, makeup, and everything else he was doing, couldn’t change the fact that he was a man. I was able to truly feel compassion for him, while detesting the abominable sin that had him bound. To be honest, I was so troubled and appalled by his behavior that I didn’t take the time to talk to him and point him to Jesus. I know that avoiding him was not the answer. How should I have responded?
It is becoming more and more evident that there is a defining line being drawn in our society regarding tolerance and love. The Bible says in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without dissimulation. (let love be genuine) Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” The message of loving everyone, while also accepting their lifestyle of living in sin, supersedes any of God’s commands to abhor what is evil and to live in holiness.
It is also evident that our culture is greatly affecting the body of Christ regarding tolerance and grace. One example of this is World Vision’s recent statement. (View here) Since they have now reversed their decision, (Click here) I wonder who their supporters will actually be? It seems like they have distanced themselves from both the people who are against hiring “gay Christians” as well as those for it. It never pays to take a neutral stance on what God calls sin or what God describes as a born-again, Bible believing, victorious Christian. However, when Christians embrace holy living, they are often accused of judging or being intolerant.
Grace. Everyone loves to hear about God’s grace and how He is a loving and merciful God. As Christians, we are also expected to be “tolerant” and “gracious” to everyone. But I believe this message of tolerance crosses a line when it inaccurately reflects the true character and nature of God.
God’s grace is often portrayed as the opposite of a legalistic, performance-based mentality. It is portrayed as tolerance versus judging, freedom versus bondage, peace and love versus hate crimes. This is NOT God’s definition of grace. If you recall the account of the adulterous woman, Jesus didn’t just refrain from throwing stones or condemning her, He also said, “Go, and sin no more.” I really don’t think He would have just shown
grace and acceptance without addressing her sin issue. He never overlooked sin, turning His head the other way while the sinner continued living a life of defeat. He lovingly addressed it. I don’t see the God in the Bible as being very tolerant of sin.
The stories regarding the flood, Adam and Eve’s sin, and the judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah, hardly depict God as being tolerant of their sin. He surely didn’t accept Adam and Eve’s “lifestyle choice” to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and He didn’t accept the mindset of those in Sodom and Gomorrah as being acceptable. I’m afraid of the souls of many who will some day experience the wrath of God when, all along, they only believed in God’s grace and tolerant love.
Jesus gave us a great example to follow. He obviously hated the sin and never tolerated it, yet He greatly loved the sinner. Our intolerance to sin should never become blinded by the emotions of un-forgiveness and hatred. (I wrote about this in my last blog, What’s so Amazing About (Your) Grace?) We don’t have to like the evil deeds, and we should speak out about the dangers of living in sin. There are many who are shaming the name of Christ because they, sadly, profess to be Christians yet live a defeated life of sin just like nonbelievers.
Tolerance is accepting sinners, no matter who they are or what they have done, but it should never stop there. If it does, we are in danger of causing others to stumble and be ensnared in sin. We should be accepting of those living in sin as being just as valuable to God as we are yet, pointing them to Jesus and helping them find true freedom. However, to portray that it’s okay to tolerate sin and view it as being loving and promoting peace is wrong. Because we love someone, we will lovingly try to help them walk closer to Jesus.
I am currently corresponding with a young woman who professes to be a Christian, yet she is a lesbian. The turmoil that she faces is intense. The battle for her soul is apparent and it’s not an easy road. One day, she cries as she longs for God to be near and real to her, while the next day she stubbornly insists on living in this sinful lifestyle. She struggles with depression, cutting herself and frequently has suicidal thoughts. These are feelings that are so foreign to me, and I can clearly see why God said, “…the way of the transgressors is hard.” (Prov. 13:15) God has given me the opportunity to speak His truth to her. I care deeply for this woman and she has a special place in my heart. Because I care for her eternal soul, I continue to lovingly and gently remind her that the reason God seems so far away from her is because her sin separates her from God. Debi Vinnedge said, “By telling people who are in error that we care deeply about them and we want to ensure their eternal happiness in heaven, we are being honest and loving-not condescending or judgmental.”
God would not be a loving God if He tolerated sin. I can be a very tolerant mom to our two little girls and allow them to eat all the junk food they desire, have all the temper tantrums that they so passionately feel, and allow them to choose whether they want to go to bed or not. Is this tolerance good? Absolutely not! Because I love them, I teach them how to eat healthy, how to properly deal with their emotions, and I establish boundaries for their own good. I am not a very good parent if I tolerate bad behavior and withhold justice and discipline. In the same way, God is not accurately portrayed when “grace” is viewed as a license to sin.
I am disheartened when I hear Christians being influenced by this tolerance mentality that is in direct contrast to the God who was feared and reverenced in the Bible. When the consequences of sin are no longer to be feared, is there any wonder that sin is as prevalent as it is?
Should Christians be tolerant? Yes, they should, but not in the way the world thinks. The world’s view of loving others is with open arms embracing the sinful and wrong choices that a person is making. We should, like Jesus, lovingly treat everyone with respect while we help to expose their sin and point them to the changing power of Jesus. This may not fit the world’s criteria of tolerance and grace, but it is the accurate picture of God’s love rather than making God “tolerant” of sin. Jesus’ message on earth was more than “love thy
neighbor,” but it was first to love and obey the Lord. Also, Jesus’ main purpose in coming to this earth wasn’t to teach or heal the sick. Jesus’ purpose was to die for the prostitutes, heathen, and the “religious,”–each and every sinner, so that we could have freedom FROM our sins and not have to still be enslaved by them. Our purpose in life is to glorifying the Lord, Jesus Christ and point others to Him. Are our lives doing that? “Grace is the power to overcome sin, not the license to sin.”
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)