God’s Tolerance

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, May 5, 2017 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Tolerance is the practice of being patient and getting along with those who disagree with us. It is the ability to maintain a relationship with someone despite having a point of disagreement. Tolerance is NOT “agree with how I think.” We are taught in both the secular world and the Christian world that we should be tolerant of those who don’t agree with us, however, what does God say about tolerance? Does he practice tolerance? The answer is going to surprise many. We seem to have this idea that God is very tolerant of us. After all, he is kind and loving and merciful. We were sinners and he still died for us. The notion that God will take us as we are is true. God does not need to wait until we are cleaned up until he will receive us. However, God is not tolerant… of anything.

If you have recovered from the shock of such a statement and are still with me, let me refresh you again with what tolerance is: to be tolerant, you have to have someone who disagrees with you, and then you get along with them, with that issue not getting between the two of you. God is not tolerant. What disagrees with God? Sin. Can God get along with sin? Absolutely not. God will be very patient and long-suffering in carrying out the punishment sin deserves, but there comes a point where enough is enough. For God to be tolerant, he would need to be able to maintain a relationship with that which violates his character.

The passage of Scripture that caught my attention to this topic was 1 Samuel 15. God told King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. Who were these people and why did they deserve this punishment? Amalek is one of Esau’s grandsons. Esau from the get-go was a man who lived according to his flesh and according to his physical needs. Esau despised his birthright, surrendering it for a bowl of stew. Even in Romans, God said he hated Esau. Why? Because Esau never sought after God. You see, God does not merely look at the individual. He looks at generations. The sons of Esau were never friendly towards the sons of Jacob. Amalek’s people revealed their true nature when they waylaid Israel in the wilderness in coming out of Egypt. In Exodus 17, they attacked and Moses stood above the battlefield and held his arms up for the victory. It was this battle that God cited in why he wanted them eliminated, about 400 years later. God gave the Amalekites 400 years to repent of their sin of trying to stop God’s people.

Was God patient? Yes, he was. Was he tolerant? No, he wasn’t. He gave them mercy for a time, but he did not get along with them. What about with God’s own people? Was he tolerant of their sin? Nope. He showed a patience with them that we still cannot grasp, however when they sinned, God took them behind the shed and gave them a whooping. God never turns a blind eye to sin, and he can’t.

Now, please do not read what I am not saying. I am not suggesting that God seeks to wipe out and punish any who sin on a whim. He desires mercy. Jonah understood this. That is why he did not want to go to Nineveh. He wanted to see God wipe out the city and he knew if he preached the message of doom that God would spare them. That’s exactly what happened. Jonah did not preach a message of repentance. He simply proclaimed that Nineveh had 40 days before the doom would come, and they repented. God spared them, for a season. The city fell not long after to the Babylonians. When Josiah lead the revival during his reign, God said he would spare him, but the judgment to come would be through his children. God does not tolerate sin.

We love the idea of God being tolerant of who we are and what we are like, because that means we don’t have to change. However, that is completely opposite of what the Gospel actually is. The Gospel is not about God getting us out of hell. That is part of the picture, but that is not what it is about. The Gospel is about taking a wicked, sinful human, completely changing his/her nature, and conforming the person into the image of God. The problem with the idea of just getting out of hell is that it suggests we can still get to heaven in our sinful state and God will just ‘tolerate’ us. This idea really does not understand or know God. God is holy and pure and just. Sin is not a sickness that needs curing; it is a crime against the Creator of all things. God spoke the universe into being and the winds and waves obey him at his voice. And we have the gall and audacity to tell God, “No!” when he commands us and then ask him to tolerate us. He will have nothing to do with any sin in our lives.

As children of God, he is going to work out all that sin that is in our lives. This is called sanctification. It is a process of purifying us, so when we come to meet Christ face-to-face we will be a pure and spotless bride, and God is going to use whatever means he needs to in order to get the job done. God will discipline his children. It will come in different ways, shapes, and forms. Just like a parent who disciplines each child differently based on how they respond to it, God does the same with us. One of my siblings only needed to be shown the spoon to stop what was going on. Spanking never made a remote difference on another of my siblings. With some, God just needs to tap and remind them to get back on the path. With others, God needs to break and shatter them so he can start them over from scratch. For the longest part of my life, I sought to be moldable. I did not want God to break me, so I sought to be in a position to mold and move as God needed me to be. However, I am starting to learn and understand what being broken means. What I do know is that I still have things in my life that God does not tolerate, and I know God wants them out of me more than I do. He loves me too much to tolerate any sin in my life.

We like to call upon God to be tolerant because we have flab and we like it. God has no tolerance for flab because he knows it leads to death. If God is intolerant of sin and the flesh, so should we be, because as long as we are associated with sin and the flesh, God will not tolerate us and he will let us know the hard way on judgment day. But if we learn to love what he loves and hate what he hates, we will find ourselves as tools God can use for his Kingdom purposes. Our sins separate us from God. The only way he can spare us while we have sin is to remove himself from our presence. If he did not, his holiness would annihilate us. Isaiah saw God on his throne and cried, “Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips!” The more we learn who God is, the more we will realize what sin really is and why he will not tolerate it.

Saul failed to wipe out the Amalekites. He was tolerant of the cattle and the king. He got rid of the stuff he didn’t like, but he tolerated the stuff he did like. As a result, God left his presence and his line would never regain the throne. If we are going to be tolerant of sin, God will not be tolerant of us. Jehoshaphat removed all idolatry from his land, except he allowed his son, Jehoram to marry the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel who I believe is Athaliah. Jehoshaphat saw God’s glory in seeking him, but his son fell into such wickedness that his people did not even give him a proper burial. Jehoshaphat tolerated the sin of his daughter-in-law, and when he died, that sin showed its full fruit. If we tolerate sin, it may not affect us directly and instead will affect our children. That is also why we must be very careful about what teachings we allow in and which ones we don’t. This is especially true for church leaders. It may not affect you, but it certainly can affect your congregation, and you will be held responsible for it. God loves us too much to be tolerant of the sin in our lives. Likewise, when we speak against sin (for we must), we must also do so in love, knowing that the sin leads to death. We must be genuine in our care for them. This is not legalism. This is life and death and too many of us, myself included, do not take it seriously enough, because we have become tolerant of sin. Tolerance of sin has fatal consequences and it never involves just us. Be watchful of what you allow in the door.

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