The Word vs. The World
What the world says: Christians are intolerant. / What the Word says: God is intolerant.
Criticizing Christians for adhering to their Bibles is like criticizing soldiers for adhering to their guns. As Christians, we must not only strive for piety, even as we recognize that we fall short and our only merit is in Christ, but also lovingly proclaim the tenets of God’s word. For striving to be Christ-like and promoting the tenets of God’s word Christians are routinely maligned by the world, labeled intolerant of other belief systems. The world should not be concerned that Christians are intolerant; rather, the world should be concerned that God is intolerant.
It is God who requires perfection and holiness. Jesus Christ said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) And the Apostle Peter wrote “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’.” 1 Peter 1:15-16. God requires holiness. God requires perfection. He will not tolerate sin in his presence. In this sense, God is intolerant.
The trouble with such a standard is that none of us can attain it by our own merit. And the trouble with preaching it is that the world sees imperfect and unholy people preaching against imperfection and un-holiness. But to the world we say, the trouble with the truth makes it no less true. Sure, some people who preach it may be on an ego trip or may be power hungry or greedy for worldly gain. But the Apostle Paul wrote of those who preached with less than pure motives, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Phillipians 1:18)
Why was Paul so tickled that Christ was being proclaimed, even if by imperfect people? Because he knew this: the perfect God intolerant of sin will tolerate sinful man if the sinful man is found in the perfect Jesus.
And, still to the point, this perfect Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) What a bold statement! Jesus leaves absolutely no room for any other imagined route to glory. Contrary to the world’s religion of tolerance, which advocates a message of “all roads lead to heaven if there is one,” Jesus revealed himself as the one and only hope (indeed, promise!) of reconciliation for sinful man to the God who does not tolerate sin. You see, if we are found in Jesus, his perfect righteousness is imputed to us, even as our sin is paid for with his sacrifice. In him, and in him alone, we are considered perfect and holy.
When Christians speak out against what the Bible reveals as sin, the world cries foul and lashes out with derogatory labels like bigot, hypocrite, and intolerant. The truth is that we sometimes fit the billing because our failures might fairly suggest hypocrisy; our passion to defend the honor of Christ might fairly seem bigoted; and certainly our adherence to the singularity of the gospel precludes tolerance of the world’s lies. However, while steadfastly refusing to compromise the gospel, Christians must strive to tender the truth with love, remembering that but for the grace of God, we, too, would reject his singular word. Too, though the gospel is a message of exclusivity in that it banishes hope from any other creed but the exclusive Christ and him crucified, it is a message we must broadcast indiscriminately with an earnest desire to see people of all nations, tribes, and tongues rejoicing in it.
Christ came seeking sinners. Christ came to heal the sick. And praise be to the God intolerant of sin that he did, for He is the only hope for sinners such as I! Though the world cry foul and quickly accuse us of our own failures in our endeavor to honor Christ, our failures do not change the truth of God’s word. Far be it from us that we should let those who decry our preaching it cause us to compromise the exclusive word of the intolerant God, for at the heart of it is the perfect Christ, and in Him alone is there hope (indeed, promise!) that sinful man will be tolerated by a Holy God—yea, even accepted as a child of His kingdom.