Our culture often blurs the lines between coexisting and agreeing, distorting the definitions of tolerance and acceptance. Truthfully, it's tricky wording- but there is a difference. As Melissa Krueger points out in her recent post, The Loving Intolerance of God, our culture seems to hold tight to the idea we can only love someone fully if we fully accept everything about them. And we can only “accept” someone if we acknowledge their beliefs as equal to our own.
But that’s not something the God of the Bible does. As Melissa writes,
“[H]ave you ever considered that tolerance is never encouraged in the Bible? The fruit of the Spirit includes love and kindness, but missing from the list is tolerance. In fact, Christians aren't called to tolerance, because we serve an intolerant God.”
She sites examples from both the Old and New Testament that showcase God’s love and (because of that fierce love) a complete intolerance for sin. The greatest example, though, comes from the cross.
Take a fresh look at the terrifying and uncomfortable reality of the cross. Here is an innocent man—whipped, beaten, nailed to a tree, bearing the sins of the world. For you. For me. Is this the picture of a tolerant God who ignores evil? No, this is a gruesome picture of divine wrath and judgment. The story makes no sense if God is a tolerant God.
The cross demonstrates God's character in all its complexity. It shows his love, kindness, and mercy united with his justice, holiness, and wrath. It perfectly demonstrates a God who surpasses understanding. The Lord is giving us a glimpse into the immensity of his love for us. The love of God is not a tolerant love. It is much better. It is a redemptive love.
Krueger is not the only one finding flaw in this idea of love equaling tolerance. Dr. James Emery White writes on Crosswalk about the different variations of tolerance. “Jesus did not believe that everything and everyone was right,” he said. “He did not muddy the waters between acceptance and affirmation. The Bible holds that there is right and wrong, true and false, and is wildly intolerant in saying so.”
An excellent example highlighting the difference between love and tolerance has been circulating recently around the web. Hazelmary Bull and her husband, Peter, have long been making headlines for a court battle they are in the midst of. Having owned and operated a bed-and-breakfast in Cornwall, England, for three decades, they’ve been brought to court for refusing to rent a double-bedded room to a homosexual couple. They only rent their double occupancy rooms to married men and women, as stated plainly on their website. The Bulls are now appealing to the U.K.’s Supreme Court.
In an interview with ITV Daybreak, Hazelmary defends their decision not to allow non-married couples—homosexual or not—to spend a night in their rooms. In this short blurb from the interview, she notes the difference between a loving God and a tolerant one.
Aled Jones: As a Christian, the God you worship is a loving God, is a tolerant God. And if people are in a civil partnership, they are obviously in love, so what is wrong with them sharing a bed?
Hazelmary Bull: I think it’s a myth to believe that entirely. He is a loving God, that’s true. He’s a forgiving God, but there is—
Jones: And a tolerant one?
Bull: He is a longsuffering God; He’s not entirely tolerant because the Bible is full of cases when He does finally bring judgment about. We felt that we wanted to, as far as possible, live according to His instructions, and the Bible is very clear about marriage.
What do you think? How can Christians continue to be loving while still holding fast to our belief in the absolute truth of Scripture?
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.