02 Apr (#12) GOD AIN’T TOLERANT, HE’S PATIENT
Biblical Christianity requires black-and-white thinking because it’s dualistic, also known as binary thinking. From beginning to end, the Bible is thoroughly categorical. Satan and God. Demons and angels. Sin and holiness. Lies and truth. Wolves and shepherds. Non-Christians and Christians. Damnation and salvation. Hell and heaven. An exhaustive list could fill a book, but you get the point. The Bible makes clear distinctions and judgments between logically opposed categories.
But the mainstream culture you and I live in is monistic and rejects dualistic binary thinking. The culture does not see categories. The culture does not allow black-and-white thinking. The culture refuses to allow any categories because that would mean making distinctions, which ultimately ends in making value judgments. Instead of Satan and God, we have a Higher Power. Instead of demons and angels, we have spirits. Instead of sin and holiness, we have individual expression. Instead of lies and truth, we have your truth and my truth. Instead of wolves and shepherds, we have spiritual guides. Instead of non-Christians and Christians, we have everyone defined as God’s children. Instead of damnation and salvation, we have whatever works for you. Instead of hell and heaven, we have people who go to a better place simply because they died.
Monism is a religion. It may not be formal like Christianity, but it is a religious view of the world that rejects dualistic binary thinking. Ultimately, this is a battle between the God of the Bible who is intolerant and the gods of this world who are at war against Him, if you believe the Bible.
NEITHER TOLERANCE NOR UNICORNS ARE IN THE BIBLE
It might surprise you that even as the Bible speaks of God in terms of holiness, love, justice, and mercy, it never suggests tolerance as one of His attributes. A simple English word search of the entire Bible in the most popular English translations shows few if any appearances of the word tolerance. The handful of times it does appear in various translations, it is used pejoratively to describe an evil done by God’s people as they “tolerate” things such as sexual sin (1 Cor. 5:1) and false teaching (Rev. 2:20).
The New Living Translation speaks of God not tolerating other religions (Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9), injustice (2 Chron. 19:7; Mic. 6:11), sinful behavior (Ps. 5:4, 101:5), or teaching based on the beliefs of other religions (Rev. 2:14). Reading the Bible does not exactly support the conclusion that the God of the Bible is tolerant or that His people should embrace the new tolerance (or the existence of unicorns, in case you’re wondering).
For Christians, this is bedrock. Who God is, how God acts, and what God commands override all other commitments. While we do not want to appear unloving toward people—especially people we disagree with—we also do not want to be unfaithful to the God whom we believe deserves our love and loyalty. Asking a Christian to approve what God disapproves is akin to asking a daughter to wind up and slap her loving father in the face in the name of being loving toward the neighbor kids who hate Him.
GOD AIN’T TOLERANT, HE’S PATIENT
While the Bible says nothing about God being tolerant, it speaks often about God and His people being patient, loving, and forbearing. This strikes at the heart of how you and I engage the culture around us.
The verse quoted in the rest of the Bible more than any other is God telling us He is “the LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exod. 34:6–7 ESV).
Based on the conversations we’ve read so far, those first claims by God would astound many outside the church today—and even more so if you and I reflected those same qualities. God’s attributes are compassion, mercy, patience, love, and justice. But it’s those same incredible attributes that necessitate black-and-white thinking. God sees some things as “iniquity, rebellion, and sin” and not just preference, taste, and perspective because He is truly loving. And God allows our bad behavior to continue—including my own faults and failings—not because He is tolerant but because He is patient.
If God were merely tolerant, Jesus would not have needed to die in our place for your sins and mine. He would not be holy, and we would not be unholy. There would be no failure on our part that needs fixing. But in compassion, mercy, and love, God came as Jesus Christ to live the life we have not lived and die the death we should have died. God shows patience not because we do not need to change but because we are stubborn and slow to change. The leader of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, says it this way, “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Pet. 3:9 NLT). God’s patience far exceeds the new tolerance. God tolerates us—as He seeks to change us—because He loves us.
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