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

YouTube video: “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jean-Marc October 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Thanks for this article Robert its really helpful

Reply

Robert October 29, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Jean-Marc,
You are very welcome. I am encouraged when I know my service for God has encouraged someone else. As Christians, we must be discerning while not being judgmental. We must judge between what is right and what is wrong, but we must exhibit the love of God while we do. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Tony Reese October 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Thanks for the article. I don’t know how many times I’ve been quoted the ‘do not judge….’ line when I’ve stood up for what is right by God’s Word. I get it the most from family and friends concerning the stance on homosexuality and sexual immorality in general. I try, in as much Godly love as I can muster, to explain that I love them but the act of homosexuality is a sin. It’s in the Bible! The Bible is God’s words, so God doesn’t like this Satanic perversion of his act that is created for the enjoyment of a married Man and Woman. Same as all forms of sexual morality.
It hurts me at times when they don’t see this, but I’m also gladden by the fact that Jesus’ words and love have gone forth!

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Robert Driskell October 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Hi Tony,
Thanks for reading and commenting. Witnessing to friends, family, or relatives can be the most difficult kind of witnessing. Finding that balance between truth on one hand and love on the other hand can be tricky. However, if we continue to trust in God’s guidance and power, and leave the results up to Him, we will be fine. I applaud your willingness to confront the issues of homosexuality and sexual immorality. It becomes increasingly difficult as our culture becomes more and more accepting of immorality. God bless you.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Pamela Rose Williams October 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Robert, you are spot on with this one brother! We are to judge (biblically) and we are not to tolerate the things that God hates. Standing on the truth can be hard sometimes but God smiles when we do. Thanks for the reminder. Well done!

Reply

Robert Driskell October 29, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Thank you, Pamela,
The issue of absolute moral standards can sure get the Christian into some heated debates, that’s for sure. Nevertheless, we are called to stand firm and to give a defense for our faith. Sometimes it seems as if we are swimming upstream in world of subjectivity. But, that’s partly what we are called to do. Thanks again and God bless you, Pamela.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

Reply

Jack Wellman October 29, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Context on judging is so important Robert and you nailed it straight on my friend. There are few men of God who fear God more than man and are not hesitant about standing up for the truth and I know you have such a record of standing firm in the faith once delivered and I thank God for you being here sir.

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Robert October 30, 2012 at 7:02 am

Jack,
You are too kind. Any insight or wisdom I might exhibit is not my own, as you know. God’s Word, made clear by His Holy Spirit, is the teacher. I am still learning (probably forever). God bless you, brother.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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jack November 2, 2012 at 7:57 am

the subject is very important for us as christian living in such sinful world.l got much benfit from it. but l have a question about.how to mix with them(sinful).l have many friend who invite me to be among them while they are drinking.and exchanging differents subjects far from god?should l stay in there middle?isn’t it sin?even lf don’t drink,or share their party!!

Reply

Robert November 2, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Hello Jack,
You ask a very good question. On one hand, you care about your friends and would love to see them come to know Jesus, but on the other hand, you wonder if you should be hanging around those friends while they participate in sinful activities.

There are several things to consider here:
Is it the best use of your God-given time to be hanging around with people involved in ungodly activities? Would God rather have you doing something else? The apostle Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything” (I Corinthians 6:12 ESV). “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up” (I Corinthians 10:23 ESV).

Are you tempted to engage in sinful activities when you are with your friends as they drink and party? “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (I Corinthians 15:33 ESV). There is the slight chance that, by hanging around with your friends as they drink and party, you may have the opportunity to share Christ with them. However, there is also the risk that you may be enticed to participate in their sinful behavior also. Is it worth the risk?

I experienced something of the same kind of thing when I began to follow Jesus. My crowd had been the partying crowd. I found that I could no longer hang around them without being drawn back into the sinful behavior that I had formerly freely participated in. Someone has rightly said, “When you become a Christian, you often have to change your playmates, playthings, and playground.” I found that this is what I had to do.

Continue to pray for you friends, be available if they want to talk to you about their lives. Above all, seek God’s will for what part He wants you to play in your friend’s lives. I cannot, nor will I, pretend to know God’s will for you (apart from His general will found in the Bible), but I will most strenuously encourage you to be in much prayer, seeking His clear guidance.

I hope I have helped in some small way. I will be praying for your situation, as I know it is a difficult position to be in. Just remember to trust God; all things are possible with Him.

Yours in Christ,
Robert

Reply

Robert November 29, 2012 at 9:43 am

Hi Ryan,
Glad you’re here. Thank you for your comments also. I agree with you, sir. There are clear moral duties and obligations in the Bible. These are applicable to all people at all times. However, there are grey areas also and great care must be taken in these areas that the will of God be done. This is where the guidance of the Holy Spirit, coupled with a surrender to God’s will and a diligent study of the Word, comes in. We do not have the right to create our own rules and deem them God’s. God bless you, Ryan.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

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Robert November 29, 2012 at 11:07 am

Hi Ryan,
Well, I can’t speak for God, but my guess (guided by Scripture) would be that He couldn’t have put every answer to every situation in the Bible. It simply would have been too much information. Also, He gave us principles to live by and one of these is to exhibit love in all we do. This love should manifest itself in us accepting the fact that, on issues where the Bible is not specific, we would respect one another’s difference of opinions on those issues. On the essential, Christians agree (or one is not truly a Christian), on the non-essentials there is room for differences of opinion. Now, for those who do twist Scripture to their own ends, the Bible says that God will even judge our motives (I Corinthians 4:5), so these people should fear the wrath of God instead of attempting to manipulate people. We should all be concerned less with our own opinions and more with God’s will. God bless you, Ryan.
Yours in Christ,
Robert

Reply

Bill November 19, 2013 at 10:42 am

The bible says we should be wary of “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Matthew 7:15. But the bible also says we shall “rejoice when the lost sheep returns to the flock.” Luke 15:1. So you have to judge between what is a sheep and what is a wolf in sheep’s clothing not between the sheep.
Jesus walked among the sinners he did not choose this sinner or that sinner because “we all have sinned and come up short of God’s glory.” Romans 3:23.
So, what is right is to accept all who have fallen from the path of righteousness and be wary of those who would prey on us and try to lead us from the path.
Jesus said it in Matthew,
Matthew 22:36-40
:36 Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?
:37 Jesus said to him, You must love the Lord YHWH your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind.
:38 This is the first and great commandment.
:39 And the second is like it, You must love your neighbor as yourself.
:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
It doesn’t say some of your neighbors or only you neighbor on the right side of the street. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus points out that there is no reward in loving only those that love you. How are the lost sheep suppose to return to the flock if you keep them outside? You must welcome them in and show them god’s loving kindness. God sent his only son that you may be forgiven of your sin and you can’t even tolerate your brother being a sinner? Maybe your not a sheep but a wolf leading the flock astray.

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Roxanne December 23, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Good article, but I think in some ways you are letting people off the hook by suggesting that it is okay to judge. Christians are too judgmental. The top word following the google search phrase “why are Christians so….is: Judgmental”. Christians need to take a hard and honest look at themselves, because “loving” “compassionate” or “kind” don’t even make the top 10. If you think googlers are just being negative, the top search term associated with Buddhists is “happy”. Look at your actions and see if they are causing hurt rather than helping. Is it more important to be right or to be kind? It certainly seems like the favorite pass-time of Christians is to judge other people’s personal lives.

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Robert December 23, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Roxanne,
Thank you for reading and commenting. You make some very good points in your comment. If I might, I’d like to address a couple of them, just to make sure I’m not misunderstood.

First, there is a difference (or should be) in ‘judging’ something and being ‘judgmental’. Being ‘judgmental’ usually entails one considering themselves better than another and therefore looking down their noses at those whom they are judging. ‘Judging’ something simply means weighing the good or bad, right or wrong, etc. of something. The Bible is clear that we are to discern between good and evil, and then we are to embrace the good and avoid the evil.

Second, while I understand your references to Google searches; however, those searches are made based on the presupposition that Christians are, in fact, judgmental. Anytime a Christian says anything against any sin, there is someone, or some group, charging the Christian with being ‘judgmental’. If that were the case, then we would have to label all the Old Testament prophets of God as ‘judgmental’ because they were constantly calling sinful societies into account. If the Christian does not speak out against sin, who will?

Thirdly, you are absolutely right about the Christian’s motivation. We should be less concerned about being right than about being loving. And we should monitor our lives to make sure they are what God wants them to be. However, we cannot claim to be loving if we simply tell people that everything will be all right no matter what their relationship with God is like. A doctor is not loving if he tells a patient, whom he knows has an illness that will kill the patient unless treated, that the patient is fine. Sometimes love requires that we be blunt with people…Jesus was both blunt and loving.

Thank you again, Roxanne, for your comments. God bless you and Merry Christmas.

Yours in Christ,
Robert

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