IS GOD TOLERANT?

Tolerance_et_Intolerance_275x207I was asked this week to comment on the following three points: 1) God is Intolerant. 2) Tolerance is not a Christian attribute. 3) Tolerance is apathy dressed up to look like compassion.

John’s illustration speaks for itself: “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God and sin do not mix. Not only does He not participate in sin, but those whose settled life practice is sin cannot have a life-giving relationship with Him (“If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth — 1 John 1:6). This is a reflection of God’s holiness. The Old Testament would describe God as, “You Who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Yet God does not rampage against the one lost in sin: there is no hint of brutality or standoffishness with Him. All the while that the integrity of God’s holiness is maintained, He is ever-welcoming and always inviting humanity into His arms. He is the Father, looking for His lost son. He is the shepherd, seeking lost sheep. Somehow He manages both merciful and just — at the same time — without contradicting His own nature. The Bible speaks to this in Romans 3:23 where God is called “just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” That He is “just” speaks to His sense of justice — that our sin cannot be tossed aside without another thought, that it can’t simply be swept under the rug (that would surely be a sign of a corrupt judge!). Yet He is also “the justifier”, the one who makes the faithful to be acquitted of the charges against us as those charges are found punished in the person of Jesus Christ.

God has moved heaven and earth to bridge the gap (sin) that separates Him from mankind. In that way, one could rightly say that God does not tolerate sin and will do any and everything to see it destroyed even if that means destroying it in the sacrifice of innocent Jesus at the cross.

God works through events and processes. Salvation is not only a one-time event (justification), but also a process (sanctification — the process of being made holy). He has saved me and He is saving me.as a refiner sits over a fire and watches the impurities burn out of his precious metal, so God is said to put His people “into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’ and they will say ‘Jehovah is my God’” (Zechariah 13:9).

This refining process takes great patience, forbearance, longsuffering, and loyal love (by the way, all of those are biblical descriptions of God). So while the term “tolerance” is not found in the Bible, many of its synonyms are. In the noblest sense(s) of the idea: Yes, God is tolerant as He waits for our repentance. (and the world’s) and slowly refines us in the fire.  – Levi Sizemore, 37th Street church of Christ, Snyder, TX

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