“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, stand firm.” Ephesians 6:13
Christians are often characterized as being intolerant. It’s a negative word that separates people and is of undesirable character. Nobody wants to be known as intolerant. In modern culture, tolerance is a measure of our ability to stay quiet against that which we do not accept as right. It’s accepting the wrongs of others, or even ourselves, in order to be inclusive of others’ beliefs.
Tolerance, however, is not a goal. More often than not, it masks complacency toward that which we should not accept. The Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen, in 1931, wrote of tolerance:
“Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to truth… or principles. About these things we must be intolerant…. Right is right if nobody is right and wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong. In this day and age, we need… not a Church that is right when the world is right, but a Church that is right when the world is wrong.”
His words still ring true today. Tolerance is not to be applied to truth or principles. In what is right or wrong, we must hold to the Bible’s unerring standard. In the case where tolerance requires us to be silent about wrong, it is a muzzle, not an instrument of societal unity.
There is no room for tolerance in the chemical laboratory. Formulas must be followed rigorously when mixing chemicals or you may blow up the facility. There is no room for tolerance in mathematics. Whether you are an engineer at NASA or an architect of a building, the calculus and trigonometry had better be exactly right or some astronaut may not get back and the building may collapse. There is no room for tolerance in sports. Every game is to be played according to the rules and everybody is to play by the rules.
Yet, we are told that when it comes to the great moral issues of our day we ought to be tolerant. Make no apologies, whether we are speaking about salvation or sexuality, marriage or morality, disparity or poverty, or what is right and what is wrong. The Word is not tolerance; the Word is truth. Let the Word of God be your guide. Be gentle, helpful, humble, and thoughtful. But on issues of faith, right and wrong, don’t be tolerant.
God, forgive me when I tolerate sin, which You cannot tolerate, and for which Your Son paid a price. Help me to live in a way that is true to Your Word, not hateful or spiteful toward those I disagree with, but intolerant of sinful behavior, first in myself, and then in our culture. Let me be an example as I stand for right, even when everyone else is wrong. In Jesus’ name, amen.