If you are not aware of what post-modern teaching is, it boils down to reality being taught to be pliable to one’s personal beliefs and preferences. In other words, abortion may be wrong in your eyes, but in someone else, they may want the option. The post-modern mindset says that you cannot try to tell the person who wants the choice to have an abortion that she is wrong. There is no thought as to whether the abortion is right or wrong; all that matters is that you do not infringe upon someone else’s beliefs.
This is the state of the world today, and it is the state of many churches today also. It is very difficult to argue logic with people whose emotions and preferences are the foundation for an argument. The cardinal sin in this society is to offend someone by saying something disagreeable. Instead, we are expected to set aside our differences and get along. You can speak out against something, well, as long as that something you are speaking out against is the intolerant, unloving, hateful, ignorant people who want to take away your personal happiness.
The lunacy of “tolerance”
We live in a world of gender fluidity and safe spaces. The prevailing thought is tolerance: Can’t we all just get along? What is actually desired is mutual respect, admiration, and acceptance. Since it is assumed that all truths are equally beneficial and possible, then we should not deal with any such differences. You believe what you want to believe, I’ll believe what I want to believe; society will be much better off. You definitely should not try to convert people or insist on your beliefs; thus, tolerance has been redefined for the modern generation to mean “acceptance and validation.”
Consider the lunacy of this world view of tolerance. First, I believe there is one God, but you say I need to accept that there are other gods, many gods, or no god, as being equally true. The theory of pluralism, or that all religions are equally valid, is absurd. There cannot be multiple truths when truth conflicts. It cannot be true that there is, at the same time, both no god and a god. The Bible’s God cannot be true at the same time Buddha is real. Your vehicle cannot be classified as a car and a plane. Only one can be accurate. Someone is right and someone is wrong, or neither of us is right; but what cannot happen is that both of us are right about directly conflicting truths.
For example, take the issue of water baptism. We acknowledge that the only baptism needed today, during this Age of Grace, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that occurs when an individual puts their trust in the finished work of Christ; no water is needed. Some denominations believe infants have to be baptized to wash away original sin. Another denomination believes that water baptism can only be done to an adult to make them a Christian. Yet another denomination teaches that water baptism is not for salvation but is an outward sign of an inward position. These are only four of the different teachings on water baptism. They cannot all be right! One has to be right, while the others are wrong. In this situation, our desire should be to turn to the source of truth, the Bible, to get our practice on this issue. Unfortunately, church tradition, instead of the Scriptures, is usually the guiding force on the issue of water baptism.
One fallacy in this world view of tolerance is a theory of multiple truths. Conflicting truths cannot coexist. Please note that we are not discussing personal preferences (e.g., favorite kinds of ice cream), this is not our topic. We are talking about objective truth (e.g., Chicago has a transit system) and not subjective truth (e.g., the Chicago train will be on time…unless it breaks down). We are talking about absolute truth (i.e., truth that is true because it is true) and not relative truth (e.g., I like apples better than oranges. You believe oranges are better than apples). The problem with the post-modern mindset is that it treats all truths as if they are subjective and relative truths, and that is objectively, absolutely not true. An absolute is essential when determining truths; we know that absolute to be the Word of God.
The second fallacy is the inconsistency of their position. There is great inconsistency amongst those who believe we need to coexist and validate each other. Society preaches tolerance but rarely offers it consistently. If you disagree with their logic, they will not tolerate it. They will rant and rave about the bakery that does not feel right baking a cake for a same-sex wedding. They won’t tolerate it! Currently, society is waging an aggressive campaign force for the exclusion of any mention of Christianity. They want to shut down our views. So, who is the intolerant one?
Yet another fallacy of this modern mindset is that it attempts to silent important topics. You are forcing me to keep my beliefs to myself when I think your eternal soul is at stake. If I do not tell you about my faith, I don’t care for you very much. The truth is, there is a Heaven and a Hell. Wishing it away and ignoring it does not make it go away. Christ paid the price through His shed blood for all to get to Heaven, but you have to personally trust that Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose again. If I really believe this message of love and don’t share it with you, do I care for you very much? I don’t share the Gospel to proselytize or to win an argument, I share so you, too, can know and benefit from what Christ has done.
Tolerance correctly defined is not validation; it means “to put up with.” Disagreeing with someone and addressing that disagreement is not intolerance. True tolerance means I am not out to cause harm to someone with which I disagree. While strongly disagreeing with someone, I am not seeking to shut him up. We both can coexist, tolerate one another, and get along to a certain extent, but we can’t accept and embrace each others beliefs. We recognize one of us is right and the other is wrong, but we are willing to talk about it as opposed to destroying the other person.
The Bible tells us to be tolerant
Since this periodical’s audience consists mainly of Christians, I will focus on our response to this issue of tolerance. Before I get too far, let me be clear that the Bible also tells us not to tolerate some things. We are not to tolerate sin in our lives (Eph. 5:3). We are not to keep company with those who would drag you into their transgressions (Gal. 5:1). We cannot put up with doctrinal fallacy in the church (1 Tim. 1:19-20). We are not to conform to the world’s use of “tolerance” and accept things God directly instructs not to tolerate.
At the same time, the greatest example of tolerance is God the Father. Psalm 86:15 says, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” Our God is a tolerant God. He has tolerated direct rebellion for thousands of years. He puts up with people teaching blasphemous things about Him. The Scriptures do not use the word “tolerant,” but it uses a synonym which is “longsuffering.”
We need to get down on our knees and thank the Lord that He is more than just tolerant; He is gracious. He has done everything He could throughout history to redeem human beings back to Himself. We should be thankful for truths such as those found in Romans 9:22, which states: “What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.” Paul poses the rhetorical question, “What if God, who would have been just in condemning the rebels, decided to tolerate wickedness in order to extend grace to them instead?” If you have trusted in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are a direct beneficiary of God’s tolerance. You are spiritually blessed because He is longsuffering.
Read what 2 Peter 3:9 and 15 have to say. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance…And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto Him hath written unto you.” At the time these words were recorded in the Scriptures, Peter and the other Eleven Apostles were urgently preparing people for the coming earthly Kingdom of God; but instead of pouring out His wrath and ushering in the promised Kingdom to Israel, God decided to tolerate rebellion a little longer. Since God does not want anyone to perish, He set aside Israel and her promises of an earthly Kingdom for a while so that in His Grace He could extend the offer of righteousness through Jesus Christ to all nations (Rom. 3:20-26). This new message was revealed to the nations through the Apostle Paul.
God is putting up with blasphemy and rebellion to give more individuals the opportunity to trust in Him. The tolerance of God, which is the true definition of tolerance, is very different from the modern use of tolerance. Notice that God does not accept rebellion; there is coming a day when it will be tolerated no longer (Rev. 6-20); things will be made right. For today, He suffers long.
Since we are to imitate God (Eph. 5:1), we are to be tolerant, or longsuffering. Ephesians 4:2 instructs, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” Colossians 3:12-13 charges, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Romans 12:18 teaches, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” In other words, as far as your behavior is concerned, strive for peace with everyone. While it would not be possible to be at peace with someone who wants to inflict personal harm on you or your family, this verse puts the responsibility of making peace with the believer. There can be no attitude of, Well, I’ll forgive them when they apologize to me. The verse does not say, “Be at peace with everyone that you like and with whom you agree.” This peace is not just to extend to those who share your political views, go to your church, or are on your team. If they are mean to you, if they disagree with you, as far as you are concerned be at peace with them.
You could take this another step by keeping verse eighteen in its context. Romans 12:19 is speaking of vengeance. Living peaceably (v18) means that I’m not going to seek to do personal harm to you. It means I won’t keep your car over our disagreement. It does not mean that we are going to agree with your argument or embrace your ideology. I think Romans 12:18 can be summed up by the word “tolerance.” It is not telling you to keep silent about evil and wrong behavior; it is telling you to be longsuffering with them. You can make efforts to shut down abortion clinics while at the same time tolerating the doctor working at the clinic.
Romans 12:20-21 reminds us that verse eighteen is not simply speaking of a disagreement. The verses say, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Remember, God was longsuffering toward us when we were against Him. We deserved His anger, but He extended His goodness to us while we were yet sinners. Those of us who know Him are to be longsuffering of our enemies and extend goodness to them, even if they never become friends.
The lesson is this: God was/is longsuffering toward us; we are to be longsuffering toward others.
Besides personally tolerating others with whom we disagree, we are to pray that governing authorities will tolerate our lives and testimony as a Christian (1 Tim. 2:2). Americans have enjoyed the freedom of religion for so many years that we have taken it for granted. We forget that the lives of Christians in many countries throughout the world are in constant danger. As Americans, we should pray that the governing authorities uphold our freedom to engage in Christian activities and evangelism.
Ultimately, the longsuffering the Christian is to extend is to win an audience for the cause of the Gospel. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will change lives and win the arguments.