I guess you have to get old to start putting it together about who gets to express opinions in this tolerant society. I’m starting to get it. If you think anything is black and white—if you think there any activities that are sinful all the time—if you think there are indeed choices that can be characterized as wrong choices—you must either keep your “intolerant” secrets or you call down the “rant world” around you. Even if it’s your personal blog (you know, that cyberspace where everybody gets to say her unique personal opinions about stuff, express her own passions and air her inner grievances)…even that space is not rant-protected for people who delineate between truth and error, right and wrong. The moment you begin to speak about the wrong candidate, the wrong apparel, the wrong priorities, the wrong speech, the wrong media choices, the wrong parenting ideas, or the wrong sexual behavior, you invite the rage of the “tolerants”.
The “tolerants” get to rant. They get to rant about how the “intolerants” are hateful and judgmental (no matter that the “intolerants” may be speaking logically and from hearts of conviction. It doesn’t matter. It only matters that someone has dared to use the “w” word: wrong.) Intolerance anymore just means “believing some things are wrong and yes, that some things are even “sinful”—that word that we used to hear from pulpits and commentaries before it pretty much dropped from our vernacular. The “tolerants” are the only ones who get to be intolerant, but they do have the privilege. The “tolerants” get to be intolerant of intolerance. So just get ready if you believe in black and white, truth and error, right and wrong. You will be placed in the “intolerant” category and you will fall victim to the rant; and, unless you surrender all convictions about right and wrong, you will likely continue to be subject to the rant.
Someone wisely said “When tolerance is the primary virtue, it soon becomes the only virtue.” I would go further than that. When tolerance becomes the primary virtue, it is no longer virtue at all. It is the enemy of courage. It is the enemy of strength. It is the enemy of self-discipline. It is the enemy of accountability. It is the enemy of righteousness. It is the arch-enemy of truth, because truth implies error. And there is no room for error in the camp of the “tolerants.”
But that’s just it. Tolerance was never meant to be primary. It was never meant to rule the virtues. Love is primary. “The greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13). Love, the queen virtue, is a demanding ruler. According to this chapter, love suffers long and is kind, but it cannot rejoice in iniquity. INIQUITY? How long has it been since you’ve heard anyone describe any behavior as “iniquity”? But perhaps the translation in the ESV is even more apropos. That version says love does not rejoice in “wrongdoing”. Even the great inspired description of love forces our admission that certain behaviors…certain “doings” are wrong. They are “wrongdoings” and we cannot be happy about them.
Love doesn’t envy and it is not boastful. But it does rejoice in the truth. There we go again. The greatest virtue demands an acknowledgement of truth, and thus, by implication, error. Fleshing it out, love has to be kind and gentle, meek and humble, but love has to be unhappy about sin and sad about error. I can express sorrow over sin in the society around me and still be loving. I can call out error and still be ruled by the greatest virtue. It is possible and it is even important for God’s people to be vocal about sin…iniquity…wrongdoings in the world around us.
Sometimes, a mere restatement of a clear passage calls down the rant of the “tolerants”. If I say, for instance, that a woman, according to I Timothy 2:9,10, Matthew 5:28, Mark 9:42 and I Timothy 5:22 can be a partaker in the sin of lust when she dresses immodestly, I sometimes call down the rant. If I say that a woman must be a homemaker (Titus 2:3-5), I call down the rant. If I say that homosexuality is vile affection (Romans 1:26), I call down the rant.
And should we ever begin to try and make application of general commandments to the culture in which we find ourselves, we almost always call down the rant. If I classify any specific popular activities of teenagers (or adults, for that matter) in current America as lasciviousness (Galatians 5:19-21), and thus works of the flesh, even by an examination of the behavior in light of the Greek meaning of the word, I call down the rant. If I try to talk about forsaking the assembly as a “wrongdoing” from Hebrews 10:26 and Matthew 6:33, I may call down the rant.
In the blogosphere, it’s generally not okay to say any of the things that people do nowadays are wrong or sinful. But let me tell you, once someone does call behavior “wrong”, then suddenly it becomes okay to call that someone hateful, judgmental, “holier-than-thou” (whatever that means) and self-righteous. Could it just be possible that, sometimes, people who attempt to identify sin around them really are trying to meekly follow the Savior to heaven and take other people with them? Could it ever be that they really are trying to diligently apply the Word to the world in which we live? Could it just be that they are convicted in conscience and thus are following the dictates of a convicted mind to speak truth in love?
As I think about this, I have to remember Jesus’ words in Luke 6:22,23:
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
If there is no black and white, no right and wrong, no truth and error, no absolute standard for my choices and behavior; if it is true that “everyone must make the choice that works better for her life and/or family and no one has the right to judge the choices of other people,” then why would anyone ever be excluded, spurned or reviled on account of the Son of Man? If there ever was such an exclusion, it certainly would not be because of Jesus!
It takes making a stand to receive persecution. It takes deferring to a standard to be reviled. It takes vocalizing a conviction to ridiculed for that conviction. It takes all of these things to have the great reward in heaven. Perhaps calling down the rant, though a minor form of persecution, is sometimes a sign that one is doing something right. “All who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” II Timothy 3:12. We shouldn’t go searching for the rant. But, when and if it comes as a result of conviction by the Word…as a result of humbly submitting to that Word ourselves and calling others to do the same, we should be okay with it. In fact, if the rant should be coming your way “on account of the Son of Man,” go ahead and start practicing your leap…for joy.