How Tolerant Should A Christian Be? Are Christians Judgmental?

by Robert Driskell · Print Print · Email Email

We live in a culture of postmodernism. Postmodernism can be described as a worldview that is skeptical of everything.  The tried and true conventions, morals, ethics and other formerly accepted ways of looking at things are rejected.  In place of those beliefs, there exists a fluid and fluctuating viewpoint that denies the existence of absolutes.  Much is seen as subjective [What does it mean to me?] and very little, if anything, is seen as objective [What does it mean?].  Dr. Henry M. Morris writes, “To the postmodern everything is relative.  What may be true or right for one person may not be true or right for the next.  Ethics is a matter of taste, and what’s right is merely a pragmatic question of what works” (Morris, p. 116).

Because much of our culture has been, and currently still is, influenced by this postmodern mentality, there exists an attitude of extreme tolerance.  This attitude manifests itself as an acceptance of anything but the most outrageous, vulgar, or harmful things.  This is the natural product of a society who has no clear idea of what is wrong or right, good or bad, or moral or immoral.  This is the symptom of a society that has become detached and alienated from the true source of goodness.  That source is God.

Christians and Tolerance

The definition of the right kind of tolerance is, “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own” (Merriam-webster.com).  Christians, who have experienced the forgiveness of God and who are now being filled with His love, should certainly be shining examples of tolerance.  However, we must understand that tolerance does not mean that we should stand for nothing.  It is rightly said that one who stands for nothing will fall for anything, and this is vitally true concerning spiritual matters.  We are to be examples to the world (Philippians 2:15).

Many times, the postmodern attitude comes into sharp focus when it opposes Christianity’s doctrines and beliefs.  Christianity is based on the historical record of God’s dealings with humanity; creation, humanity’s rebellion, and the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Christianity and postmodernism, by definition, cannot be compatible.  Jesus has said that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  Postmodernism would have us believe that this is negotiable; that Jesus may be the way, the truth, and the life for some, but not for everyone.  However, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me” is not a subjective statement; it is a statement that is intolerant of opposing statements.  Jesus is saying that there is no other way, truth, or life; nor is there any other way to God.

Many times, when Christians voice their convictions, the reaction from those who disagree will be to accuse the believer of being intolerant.  People, who openly reject the Bible and its Author, are quick to use Matthew 7:7 as ammunition against the Christian: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1 ESV).  Often, they say that this verse prohibits Christians from making any kind of judgment statement concerning anyone else’s behavior or lifestyle.

Christians are instructed to ‘judge’ things

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment”

The Bible is replete with passages instructing God’s people to be discerning.  We are not to walk through life with our heads in the clouds.  Someone has said that we can be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.

“Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good” (Job 34:4 ESV).

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24 ESV).

“Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:7-10 ESV).

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:20-22 ESV).

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1 ESV).

These are just a few of the many verses and passages that show us we should be making judgments concerning morality, behavior, and worldviews.  Clearly, God wants us to be able to discern between right and wrong, good and bad, and to stand firm on those truths.

Christians are instructed to ‘defend’ the Truth

As Christians we are instructed, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18 ESV).  We are to be loving, kind, and considerate as much as we can.  However, Jesus also instructed His disciples to be wary, Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV). Putting the teaching of these two verses together we see that we are to be tolerant about some things, but some things we cannot, in good conscience, allow without opposing them.

We are to be ready, “…to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in [us]…”  (I Peter 3:15 ESV).  Jude encourages his readers, both then and now, “…to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Titus, in giving the qualifications of an overseer of the church, included this admonition, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9 ESV).  The Christian must be knowledgeable enough of the Word of God to be able to teach those who want to learn and to reprimand those who do not.

If there is any doubt that believers should be ready, willing, and able to defend their faith, Craig Hazen writes, “Even if Christ’s closest followers had not given direct commands to engage in apologetic activities, they modeled these activities so frequently and unmistakably in Scripture that their actions amount to a clear exhortation for all Christians to go and do likewise”  (Hazen, p. 41).

Conclusion

As believers, we must stand up for the biblical principles that are part of our faith. We must defend our faith when appropriate.  We must do this in the most loving way we can.  However, the world, many times, will not understand why we believe what we believe, and will often react angrily and aggressively.  It is in these times we must be tolerant and understand that God has given them the freedom to reject Him, His laws, and even His love if they so choose.  It is our prayer they will repent and become followers of Jesus.

Interested in some similar articles? Check these out:

Resources

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV)

Craig J. Hazen, “Defending the Defense of the Faith” in To Everyone an Answer,  eds. Francis J. Beckwith, William L. Craig, and J. P. Moreland, InterVarsity Press, 2004

Morris, Henry M. Defense of the Faith.  Master Books, 1999

http://www .merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tolerance

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