Amy Carroll » Growing Spiritually » The Case for Intolerance

The Case for Intolerance

I remember my college days fondly. Chapel Hill, NC was a beautiful place to live–large, green quads shaded by towering trees, a picturesque Old Well and challenges galore for my intellect. It was a great time of life.

old well

Your college of choice may have been different, but I’m guessing your college experience was probably similar to mine in one sense. It was a time when I left my little, cocooned world at home and was shocked by how right was called wrong and wrong was called right.

When I was researching the Church of Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29, I came across this quote from IVP Commentary, “For some people  today tolerance is the only real virtue and intolerance the only vice.” It brought memories flooding back of battles with professors and debates with friends.

That was almost 30 years ago (YIKES!), but it also made me realize how I feel this way almost every day in my life 3 decades past college. Because I’m a Christian who believes every word of scripture is true, I’m considered intolerant…aberrant…different…even unacceptable. My culture considers many of my views intolerant, and increasingly I’m considered intolerable.

You may feel the same. When you watch the news. When you discuss life with co-workers. When you talk with moms at the park.

But I think most of us don’t expect to feel that way at church. Right?

Unfortunately, just like the Church at Thyatira, unbiblical ideas, theologies and acts have seeped into the church today, so the words of Jesus to the church centuries ago still hold true for us in 2014:

“I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.'” (Rev. 2: 20-24)

I know this type of “hell-fire-and-brimstone” isn’t popular today, but there it is. Plain as day in scripture. Along with a description of Jesus with “eyes like blazing fire” and “feet like burnished bronze” indicating judgment.

We may squirm and be uncomfortable with this (it’s definitely not my favorite blog post to write), but the truth is Jesus is intolerant. He is intolerant of any sin that separates us from our perfect Father. And if Jesus is intolerant of sin, then His people should be intolerant of what He defines as sin too.

Here’s the softer, gentler news…Jesus’ intolerance of sin is for our good. He loves us beyond measure and knows it’s impossible for us to live sinfully and walk closely with God longs for relationship with us. When we give up sin, the trade is for something sweeter than can be imagined.

And though this letter to the church calls us to stand against sin outside ourselves and in the church, our first call is to  personal purity gained only by turning away from our own sin and toward Jesus in faith. Only then, filled with love of God and the truth of scripture, can we stand rightly in intolerance against the sin around us.

Note: Congratulations to Kathy who posted at 10:04 3/6! She is the winner of Living So That, Wendy Blight’s new Bible study.

 

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7 Comments

  1. I stumbled across this article and your website at the right time! I just had a 4hr conversation with a sister-friend about this very same issue.
    I was beginning to think that maybe I was too “radical” in my beliefs because it’s one thing to be living in opposition to unbelievers but it’s something different when you find the church becoming tolerant of things that are wrong.

    Thank you for this post! You have gained a new subscriber. Looking forward to reading more. God bless <3

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Liya! It was a really hard post to right, because it deserves a much better discussion than just a little blog post. I’ve got a devotion coming up in April for Proverbs 31 that I hope will clear up the connection between obedience and living in God’s love. I’m so glad you’ve joined our little community!

  2. I appreciate your honesty and you have stated your case clearly. My confusion comes from wondering where God’s forgiveness and grace is in this position. Aren’t we supposed to be loved by God no matter what faults we may posses and aren’t we supposed to be forgiven our sins because Jesus died on the cross for that very blessing?

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Shelly, I’m sorry I’m answering so late (it’s been a crazy weekend!), but I love your question and wanted to make sure to answer it. Yes, we are absolutely loved by God unconditionally no matter what. I love how my friend Cathy says it, “You could never do anything to make God love you any less. And you could never do anything to make God love you any more.”

      Having said that, it’s our choice whether to live in God’s love through obedience or to live outside of the protection of His love in disobedience. If you’re not sure whether that’s true or not, please read John 15 (esp. vs. 9-10). Even our Revelation passage reflects this truth. In Rev. 3:21, Jesus says about the woman teaching sexual immorality and idolatry in the church, “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.”

      Gods forgiveness is always available, but it is given to us when we choose repentance, turning away from the sin. This verse shows us that God was trying to draw even a woman teaching wicked things in the church to Himself, but she was unwilling to turn away from sin and toward God. Since sin separates us from our holy God, it wouldn’t be loving for Him to excuse it. In the Old Testament, we see how even God’s judgments show His mercy as He uses it to draw His people back to Himself.

      This is such a deep discussion for a venue like a blog. I’m so glad you asked the question, Shelly, and I wish we could sit down to coffee to spend more time on it!!

  3. Amy…Thank You for your obedience and boldness of the Holy Spirit…We as the church need to come back to this teaching My husband and I feel so separated from our church and our home group where we have now left and are looking for a new place of worship and accountability…The church has bought into the lie of Satan with the love and grace teaching and fallen into such a danger zone of we as Christians have to be tolerant of hiding sin and not be able to go to one another and speak truth when we are slipping away…Our home group we just left decided to go to a bar for karaoke night with all their children instead of having group night they wanted to do something different and to invite their friends to come that didn’t want to come to a group home study and my husband and I were the only one that spoke up and asked why is this something we would do on a night of worship and bible study they came against us and acted as if we were religious and legalist and told us we were not showing LOVE to the group ….such foolishness we are not religious or legalist we are just at a different place and God is calling us to draw closer and not compromise our faith and I so appreciate you in writing this it truly brought such conformation to my husband and I on to keep focus and to not give in and slip into the lies of the devil and become asleep…I pray that God will continue to richly bless you and your family and all that God is doing within this ministry He has given you to Stand for HIs Truth and Righteousness … Please pray for us to find a church that stands up for His Truth!!!!!

    1. Amy Carroll says:

      Diane, I’m so sorry your family is going through church hurt. It’s some of the hardest, because our church community is truly family.

      We’ve all got blind spots, and I’m no exception. Over and over God convicts me of how my beliefs and actions have slipped toward my culture and away from His Word. It’s His Word that has to be our “True North” that keeps us from drift.

      “That woman Jezebel” (vs.20) had not only drifted, she was teaching in direct violation to the 2 clear directives given from the Jerusalem council in Acts 15:28-29, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat o strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid such things.” Clear truths and directives in scripture are the things were are to stand on firmly even when the world around us considers us intolerant. One such truth that leaps to mind is that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life”, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. (Jn. 14:6)

      There are so many areas in churches where we can disagree based on preferences and even personal convictions. These are to be covered by love and grace (Romans 14-15) which means we’ll sometimes agree to disagree or even move to separate works like Paul and Barnabus. I’m praying for wisdom and discernment for all of us as we reach these places of conflict in our churches. It’s messy stuff, and we all have to lean hard on Jesus in the midst of it.

      1. Amen …so beautifully stated …Thank You…It is so hard when you don’t even want any conflict but if you don’t want to go and participate because of your own convictions people take offense to it when we say nothing except decline to go…and have people ask us not to come back it’s such a spiritual battle and we do need to love them and trust that Jesus will continue to bring good friends to our life to keep us growing in our faith …God Bless you Amy. So appreciate your prayers today.