August 6th Being Too Tolerant of Tolerance

Reading 2:18-29

I recently heard a speaker at Parliament talk about the pervasive, current culture we find ourselves in. The speaker’s analysis was that we currently live in a ‘victim culture’: a culture where the majority of people feel they are victims. As a result of this mentality, it could be said that disagreement is often seen as a demonstration of hatred. Our culture says, “If you really loved me you’d validate my belief, my actions and not disagree with me or tell me I’m wrong”. Therefore it seems that the only way to demonstrate love is to agree, whatever the actions or belief system: tolerance of everyone and everything seems to be the modern virtue.

The tolerance of everyone’s beliefs and behaviour, coupled with the idea that all opinions (no matter how contradictory) are of equal validity have undermined the idea within our culture of ‘truth’. In other words our culture wants to say, “That may be true for you, but, it is not true for me”. This is difficult for a faith that follows one who said he is the ‘Truth’. He either is or he is not. It cannot be true for me and not true for you, nor can it be only half true! It is not hatred to disagree, sometimes it is the most loving thing we can do.

Thyrita was a small but very busy merchant town, full of local pagan trade guilds. Jesus says to this church that they are being tolerant of the wrong things, “I have this against you, you tolerate that woman ‘Jezebel'”. By being tolerant of Jezebel, the church is actually showing intolerance to the words and truth of Jesus. We are called to an exclusive relationship with him!

Who or what is ‘Jezebel’? In the Old Testament, Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, (1 Kings 16:25,31, 2 Kings 9:22,30-37) and is used as biblical shorthand for someone (particularly a women) who undermines loyalty to God by promoting tolerance to pagan gods through profit or sexual practices. In Thyrita, ‘Jezebel’ may be a prominent woman in the church leading people astray through prophesying a false message. Or perhaps ‘Jezebel’ represents a group within the church that advocates Christian participation in the pagan rituals of the local trade guilds. A similar contemporary situation may be likened to churches who encourage or tolerate ‘Free Masonry’ within the fellowship or engage in multi-faith services. Even as I write these words, my culturally attuned ears are pricking up and saying to me, “That sounds very intolerant Andy” but I want and need to be intolerant of the things that faith in Jesus calls me to be intolerant of.

While we are always to be loving towards people, we are called to be intolerant of hurtful, sinful practices. We are to be intolerant of murder, theft, sexualisation of children, rape, sexism, poverty, bullying, racism and injustice. We are to be intolerant of our own selfishness, hatred and actually, of anything that draws us away from loving Jesus. Thyrita was called not to compromise with the standards of the world in its day and so are we.

Keith Green is one of my all time favourite Christian singer song writers, in his song ‘Make My Life A Prayer To You’ he sings,

Make my life a prayer to you
I wanna do what you want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers no compromise

Jesus says,

“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

For memorisation

“The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:26)

Father, please forgive me my compromise with the world. Help me please, by your spirit to stand firm and hold exclusively to you! In Jesus name. Amen.


  • Mary Dicker says:

    A dictionary definition of tolerance is: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry. Biblically, the true virtue of tolerance is showing patience, kindness, longsuffering, and forbearance toward others.
    BUT the meaning of tolerance has been changed and now means we have to agree with everyone’s beliefs and behaviour. If we do that, then there is no need for tolerance!

  • Hermione says:

    This is SO good Andy. I am really enjoying this. A commentary I am reading as well says ‘What a challenge for us today. It is not enough to be doctrinally correct. We must be spiritually erect. It’s not enough to know the word, we must do it. Righteousness is not a shroud, but working clothes! If you or I should find ourselves in a dead church let’s remember that even in Sardis, there were saints dressed in white, the symbol not only of purity but of overcoming. The deader the faith of those around us, the more alive and active our faith must be.

  • Rachel Prentice says:

    Thank you.Andy. You hit the nail on the head in my opinion. I find it so easy to disagree in my mind but so hard to stand up and be counted. I suppose pride comes in somewhere as we want to be accepted and liked. But I definitely pray today’s prayer.

  • Janet R says:

    One of the first things I was taught by the pastor who led me to faith was to as he put it “to Love the person but hate the Sin”. This can be very difficult as we tend to grade sins Jesus doesn’t sin is sin. I remember a conversation with one of my staff when I worked for NatWest many years ago. He was homosexual and I shared my beliefs with him. He new I did not agree with homosexuality he co-habited with his partner but they then split. The bank refused him the normal ‘divorce’ terms they offered heterosexual couples you were parting. I remembered what my pastor taught me and I took on his case and won him the same terms. As a non Christian he never understood why. Maybe sometime in the future he might. Just like Jesus we must “Love the person but hate the sin” .We must speak the truth of our faith and not accepted what the world tells us is ok but we do not have the right to judge or discriminate.
    Please don’t use this as a start of a debate on homosexuality thats not why I posted it.

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