By now we know what tolerance means. It has nothing to do with patiently hearing out all sides and putting up with those whom you disagree with. It has more to do with falling in line with whatever the elites, social engineers and angry mobs tell us to fall in line with. That’s why, if you happen to be a Christian with something more than a coloring book for your creed, you have been or will be called intolerant. And if you go to a church that takes the Bible seriously, it will be called intolerant as well. But no matter how often you get classified as such, you’re still not the most intolerant person in your church.
I know. An intolerant Jesus isn’t consistent with the Jesus our culture has crafted into its own image. Our culture, if you haven’t noticed yet, likes to talk a lot about Jesus. Just not the Jesus of the Bible. Their Jesus falls in line with the elites, the social engineers and the angry mobs. Their Jesus is more of a do-gooder than Lord and Savior. Their Jesus came to affirm sin and condemn certainty. Their Jesus isn’t too concerned with what people do with their sex lives, just as long as those people love each other. Or even if they don’t. Who cares? Jesus surely doesn’t.
But the real Jesus, the one we read about in the Bible, is different. He’s much more intolerant than you may think. Consider his words to the church in Thyatira. The church wasn’t all bad. The people there did good things. They loved, they served and they endured (Revelation 2:19). But they weren’t all good either.
When it came to their theology of sex and their lifestyle, they were too tolerant for Jesus’ liking.
But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. Revelation 2:20 (ESV)
Yes, it is possible for a church to be too intolerant. Accounts of people being steered away from a worship service, either directly or indirectly, because of their skin color or reputation are well documented. This is a sin for which the guilty church should repent.
But it is possible to sin the other way as well. It’s possible to be so tolerant that we have to slide Jesus’ words to the side in order to accommodate whatever the elites, social engineers and angry mobs tell us to accommodate. It is possible to bend the truth so much in the name of tolerance that is no longer the truth. That’s what the church in Thyatira did. And that’s what many churches are doing today.
Not only is Jesus more intolerant than we might think. He’s also much more merciful than we expect. It doesn’t matter how straight you are or how faithful to your wife you are. Without Jesus’ mercy, we are all without hope. You can’t straight your way or faithfully marry your way into heaven. You need Jesus and his mercy.
That’s what Jesus offered to the church in Thyatira.
I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. Revelation 2:21-23 (ESV)
Do you see the grace there? The woman who was leading Jesus’ people away into sexual sin and grave theological error was given time to repent. There is no amount of sexual sin or theological malpractice that is beyond the gracious grip of Jesus’ nail scarred hand. But his mercy is not limitless. There is an end. Sickness and death were promised to this false teacher, her children and those who followed her because of their failure to repent.
This is a word that we would do well to heed today. In all of our sexual revolving and evolving, one thing still has not changed. Sin has consequences that lead to death. And there is nothing that the elites, social engineers and angry mobs can do to stop it. Only repentance can do that.
Earlier this week I was reading about how both political parties have abandoned the concept of traditional marriage. The intolerance of the church has finally caught up with us. We can forget about ever having a voice for us in the White House again. For all practical purposes, we are now the Amish.
But that’s okay. It’s okay because there is something better than the approval of the elites, social engineers and angry mobs. The approval of Jesus Christ is of infinite value.
The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 2:26-29 (ESV)
Being intolerant will only get harder. But don’t give in. Just remember the words of the most intolerant man in your church.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12 (ESV)