The Footsteps of Paul Blog

Should Christians Be Tolerant?

Posted By: Chris Posted In: Blog, The Seven Churches Date Posted: June 27th, 2012 Comments: 2

Photo (Chris D.) Religious & Ethnic Intolerance has only one outcome

Issue #20 – “Further Thoughts on Thyatira”

Last week I promised to post this article by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church. Last year I was somewhat surprised when, during a worship session with some friends in an abandoned Greek Orthodox church in Turkey, the Lord spoke quite clearly to me that we should be praying for ethnic and religious tolerance. As an evangelical Christian “tolerance” was anathema to me, until the Lord showed me that true freedom can only emerge out of tolerance, especially ethnic and religious tolerance. Some time later I read Mark’s article and was very encouraged. I’m sure you will be too.

Should Christians Be Tolerant?
By: Pastor Mark Driscoll on Jun 01, 2012 in Sermons, Theology

“But I have this against you, that you tolerate . . .” –Jesus Christ, in Revelation 2:20

We live in a culture that loves tolerance. We’re told that we should equally value value and affirm all lifestyles. That is, of course, except for those who are deemed intolerant. You can’t possibly be expected to tolerate them.

And more often than not, as Christians, because we believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and the source of all moral truth. When we preach the Bible faithfully, we’re deemed intolerant, which is the ultimate cultural sin.

As people who love Jesus and love others, the question becomes: How can we faithfully preach Jesus and the Bible in a culture that values tolerance more than truth? As the church, can we and should we be tolerant?

The short answer is yes. But, as with anything, the issue is more complicated than a simple yes.

So let’s talk about Christian tolerance. What is it? What is it not?

1. Christians Should Practice Legal Tolerance in Society

Should we have legal tolerance of other views, other religions, other ideologies, and other perspectives? Yes.

As Christians, we should support people’s legal rights. Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, atheists, agnostics, and more—they’re welcome to their belief. We don’t agree with it, but we’ll tolerate it.

Christianity is not a religion that should be imposed on anyone. It’s about loving Jesus, and you can’t simply pass a law to accomplish this. It doesn’t work like that. To love Jesus, your heart must change.

So, rather than impose Christian faith on anyone, we propose it to everyone.

2. Christians Should Practice Social Tolerance in Community

If you have a family member, a friend, a coworker, or a neighbor that disagrees with you about the Christian faith, should you tolerate them socially and personally? Totally.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. He doesn’t say agree with them. As such, we should love, serve, be good friends with, and be good neighbors to people of other beliefs, ideologies, religions, and perspectives.

This doesn’t mean we won’t share our beliefs and propose Christianity to them, but it does mean that if they choose not to believe what we believe, we won’t write them off or be done with them. We will love them with the hope that Jesus will turn their hearts to him.

3. Christians Should Practice Theological Tolerance in the Church

Before you blow your heretic whistle, I’m talking here about theological tolerance within the bookends of orthodoxy.

For instance, at Mars Hill Church there are some who believe in the rapture and some who don’t, some who speak in tongues and some who don’t. There are all kinds of secondary issues that we tolerate as a community. We talk about it, but we’re not going to declare war over it. They are distinctions, not divisions.

This is also why we partner with churches that disagree with us on certain secondary issues. For instance, our church has male pastors but we work with churches that have female pastors. Why? Because they really do love Jesus, believe the Bible, are family, and we’ll be with them in the kingdom of God. So, for the sake of evangelism, we partner together so that people might meet Jesus. We also lovingly have discussions about some of the things we disagree about. But that’s not war. That’s just dialogue between brothers and sisters as in every family there are scuffles but not shootouts.

4. Christians Should Not Have Heretical Tolerance in the Church

In the church, there are certain beliefs that are national borders and others that are state borders. The Bible is God’s Word. There is one God in three persons. Jesus is God’s Son. Jesus lived without sin, died on the cross in our place, and rose as our Savior. The Bible is the Word of God. Those are national borders.

Then, there are state boundaries: Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Four Square, Reformed, Arminian, etc.? State borders. We should get along across the state borders, but we must protect national borders.

So, if somebody teaches heresy, crosses a national boarder, while claiming to be a Christian, we say, “No, we don’t tolerate that.”

5. Christians Should Not Have Immoral Tolerance in the Church

Should we as a church tolerate, from those who are professing Christians, immorality? No.

To be clear, I’m not talking about non-Christians. The problems and divisions in the church are not because of the non-Christians but rather because of those who say they’re Christians but live like unbelievers.

Christianity begins with tolerance and moves to repentance. Meaning, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, and what you’ve done, you can come to Jesus just like you are. But, Christianity is also about change. Jesus will change you as you follow him.

So while we welcome all people, if they confess Christ, we also expect them to change—just as we have changed and are changing by the grace of God.

Photo (Chris D) Minaret & Orthodox bell tower, Antakya, Turkey

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let the discussion begin!


  • Olive Macleod - 8 July, 2012 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Thanks Chris , this has clarified my confusion of last week. I was thinking that present day false prophets are more subtle than the past, but no, they are just as clear as Mark’s commentary states. I ‘hold on to what I have until He comes’ God bless you, Sus and the family

  • shore tours in St Petersburg, Russia - 12 July, 2012 at 11:36 am - Reply

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