Are Tolerance and Love the Same Thing?
“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” – 2 Corinthians 2:15 & 16
I started this blog promising to lift the fleece on the wolves, the false teachers and those that make Jesus Christ out to be something that He is not or to weaken His authority. In the previous two posts, I have been establishing His power and authority. In this post we want to look at how our command to love one another has become the source of a great deal of confusion.
Did Christ command us to love one another? He certainly did, but we cannot lose focus of the first priority of His love, which is to bring about our restoration with God and can only be done through confessing our sins and being forgiven and justified through Jesus Christ. We discussed this in the first two blogs to an extent, by pointing out that Jesus was resolutely focused on His purpose. Let’s dig a little bit deeper.
Confusing Tolerance for Love
This is really a two sided coin that is caused by our failure as believers to keep our own selves in order and a misunderstanding of what it means to love one another.
The church and believers are often under attack because our message often enters into a grey area. At times, when condemning sin, it sounds as if the church and believers are being hateful. At times, those observations from people outside the church and the family of believers are totally justified.
When we are frustrated, afraid, angry, confused, overwhelmed, etc., we often allow those emotions to guide us toward an “unrighteous” form of hatred. Don’t be confused, we are to have a “righteous” hatred of sin. When that hatred spills over into judgment of another person and hatred of another person, that’s when we cross the line into “unrighteous” hatred. When we don’t clean up our own act first, we invite that sort of hatred to spill over into what we say and how we say it, either face to face or on Facebook.
One of the fruits of the spirit, which is also a very strong part of speaking the truth with love, is self-control. In our vigorous condemnation of sin, we cannot lose sight of the fact that, we too, are sinners and desperately in need of the same salvation that is offered by our savior as anyone else. Let’s sidetrack for a moment in order to get a better picture of our position in the faith by comparing two passages of scripture that make up essential attitudes of our faith.
Take a moment to study these two passages of scripture side by side. In essence, I think you will find that walking in love and walking in the spirit are very close to the same thing. If we are to truly have our houses clean and in order, we must follow Christ in this way.
You’ll note than neither list includes, “is tolerant of sin.” In fact, let’s look at two attitudes that are included in the first column: “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth” and “it always protects.”
To rejoice in the truth we must not only believe in the truth, but speak it as well. In addition, we must protect the Law of God and the Gospel from being watered down, misrepresented or perverted. We cannot wink at sin, we cannot tolerate it and we cannot turn a blind eye toward it and still truly love others. At the same time, look at the list of “nots:” envy, boast, proud, dishonor others, self-seeking, easily angered or keep record of wrongs.
Speaking the truth with love, means declaring the Gospel, while walking according to the fruit of the spirit.
The confusion that seems to follow the church and believers comes from a mixed message that the church and believers haven’t clarified well. Speaking the truth, rejoicing in God’s law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and loving our neighbors does not include tolerance of sin and acceptance of it.
“If we say that we have no sin then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us or all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:8,9
On the other hand, it also does not include the angry, dishonoring judgment of those who sin.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Matthew 7:1 & 2.
When confronting the sins of the Pharisees in order to correct their perversions of God’s law, Jesus wasn’t often as gentle and meek as we often think of Him. On a few occasions, he was downright vicious (Matt. 23, Luke 11 or John 8 after forgiving the woman caught in adultery), but on other occasions, like when he spoke to Nicodemus (John 3), he was gentle. We looked at one of these in the previous post when Jesus declared who He was, “before Abraham was I AM.” Note that on every occasion, he was in control and he stayed on topic. His attack was upon the sin that was being committed and in every instance and He always called for repentance.
Consider this from Jeremiah Johnson as you weigh the difference between tolerance and love:
“And although we’ve been called to confront the world, we need to do it in a godly way. We’re not to proudly parade our purity by arrogantly confronting the lost world with our spiritual supremacy. God did not rescue us from our spiritual darkness so we could live like the Pharisees.
“In the constant conflict with the world, humility is paramount. We need to always remember that the world opposes us not because of our own inherent goodness or our spiritual savvy. As John MacArthur explains, the world hates us because of Christ.” – Inviting Persecution.
Here is one last bit of scripture to help focus yourself on speaking the truth with love and being that sweet aroma to those being saved, but the stench of death for those who are perishing.