Of course, the pretty words in the grey box are one of the biggest lies of our generation. We live in a post-modern world. I don’t know all of what that means, but I do know that, as one person put it to me recently, some of the things I stand for because of conviction—things that were taken for granted as truth for Christians five decades ago—are “laughable” to the average person—maybe even “Christian”—today. Things like the exclusivity of Christianity; my belief that not everyone who has some loose belief in parts of the Word of God lives under the security umbrella of God’s eternal protection (Matthew 7:13,14, 21) . Things like the eternality of both heaven and hell; my belief that they are real and will both be “forever” abodes for people, based on whether or not those people obeyed the gospel (Matthew 25:31-46). Things like even the very concept of sin; that there are things we can do that will, without repentance, alienate us, for all time, from God. Things like doctrine; that there are teachings in the New Testament that are binding on Christians today as they relate to our worship, the organization of the body of Christ, and the moral and ethical behavior of His people. Things like the very concept of absolute truth and the adherence to God’s system of primary and delegated authority.
“Tolerance” is the watchword, of course. What’s right for you may not be what’s right for me. Unfettered tolerance excludes absolute truth and certainly precludes my ever speaking to anyone about a concern for his/her eternal soul, especially when I might be implying that there is sin which must be put away in order to be pleasing to God. There are all sorts of “wicked” terms that define me if I have the idea that Christianity is exclusive of those with a relaxed attitude about what God has clearly defined as sin. Judgmental, intolerant, bigoted, homophobic, narrow-minded, haughty, holier-than-thou, and self-righteous are among the characterizations assigned to those who maintain that our God, as He’s expressed in His Word, cannot co-exist with sin.
Sometimes we let the world’s post-modern view get into our hearts, as HIs people. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that God put us in the body so that we might help each other go to heaven . I need that accountability. I need the verbal accountability of those who are brave enough, in a world that would throw its “wicked” terms at them, to come to me and say, “Can I help you to take a step back and look at this sin?” I need those who, in spite of the vitriolic hatred of a post-modern world toward any adherence to truth, will bravely stand up and teach moral absolutes and who will plainly teach passages about worship and church organization. (The up-and-coming generation surely needs this, because relativism’s assault on their faith is unrelenting.) We (I) have to be careful in a world that looks at truth as some fluid entity that is unimportant, even if it exists, that we (I) don’t resent the body of Christ for the very thing that makes it so valuable to us/me. The church is the “called-out”. It’s the haven in this world where truth is real; the place I can go where my core values in Him are respected and where I am held to a standard of accountability to those values. It’s my spiritually safe place.
The thing is…a spiritually safe place will make me shrink back from embracing the concept of tolerance that’s the very ideological foundation of post-modern philosophy. I cannot say “I’m ok..you’re ok” if you are not adhering to God’s standard of truth about religion, about sin and about godliness. I can’t embrace our differences if those differences will keep one of us from heaven. I can’t ignore sin that damns in the lives of people I love. Because I have a safe place, the world becomes unsafe in some important respects. I am not in alignment with its philosophies. In fact, I must be in opposition to them at almost every turn. Confrontation, awkward conversations, declined invitations, exclusion from certain activities, and sometimes even loss of friendships or positions is a price I must pay for choosing love over tolerance.
Love over tolerance. We will not always get the exact tone of our voices right in the conversations, borne of love, that we have with people about sin. But we still have to talk and do our very best to love them to heaven. We will sometimes be too soft in our approach and, at other times, we may seem harsh as we try to reach for souls that are in need, pulling them from the fire (Jude 23). But we still have to pray fervently and try. We, in turn, must be glad for the accountability that convicted people are willing to give us; always open to the guidance of faithful elders and glad for their reproof when we are going astray. That’s the temporary discomfort of discipline. It’s the right-now pain that yields an eternity with the Father. We should thank him for the accountability of the body of Christ. We should thank the family of God when we find our spiritually safe place there.
The problem in our post-modern world is not really tolerance. It’s that there’s no tolerance for conviction. Conviction is founded on truth. And the idea of any truth to which all people are accountable is a concept that’s simply unpalatable to and rejected by the masses in this post-modern world.