Tolerance is Not Approval

Tolerance is Not Approval

Can’t we all just get along?

Do you remember the feeling of freedom we had as kids? Imaginations running wild and streams of thought that flowed unimpeded by the dams of the daily grind! Do you remember the fun of playing ball or hide and seek, pretending you were a caped crusader or some other hero or heroine?

Despite our desire for unfettered freedom, even we knew there had to be structure, there had to be rules. Every game we played had some set of laws and many times, the rules are defined by the one who owns the ball and bat. My ball. My rules! This dictatorial rule of decree was often argued but seldom overturned. Sometimes there was a cry from one of the older, wiser kids: “Guys, can’t we all just get along?”

Growing Up and Getting on with It

Now let’s take that concept and fast-forward well beyond adolescence and into adulthood. We all know that rules apply to life, regardless of whether you accept God’s Word as the standard. We can testify to the fact that there are many fighting for the right to assert dominance and rule over others. Even in adulthood we hear the decree: “My ball. My rules!” And a lot of people are fighting for that ball.

Words matter, meanings matter more. Control the language, control the culture. This is the playing field in the culture wars and it’s plain to see! For example, if you only used the articles of the day to define words and terms, you’d be hard pressed to figure out that tolerance differs from approval. And by approval, they mean being “on the right side of history.”

Tolerance and Intolerance

The modern cry for tolerance is not merely for allowance of diverging views. It is a cry of approval of certain views and condemnation of those who reject those views as false. In the name of “tolerance,” war is waged against those who are on the “wrong side of history.”

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we ought to tolerate all things. There are many things we ought not tolerate. We ought not tolerate the abuse of children. We ought not tolerate mistreatment of others on the basis of race or ethnicity. We ought not tolerate the slaughtering of helpless babies in the name of “women’s healthcare”—nomenclature that could seem to find its own way to the wrong side of history for perpetuating “gender stereotypes” and reenforcing a “binary” view. How intolerable it is to limit abortions to women! I digress.

I think that by now you may be picking up what I am laying down. Or perhaps a more appropriate way of putting it (with thanks to Voddie Baucham): smelling what I am stepping in.

Tolerance is Not Approval.

If tolerance means that we discuss our disagreements with civility: deal. If tolerance means that we engage without the use of logical fallacies such as straw man and ad-hominem arguments, I’m game. If tolerance means approval, someone else said it better than me: “Yeah, that’s gonna be a ‘no’ from me, dawg.”

Tolerance is not approval. Don’t let those pushing a particular agenda tell you otherwise. We have a standard of truth. We have a God who does not tolerate any and all viewpoints. He has made us in his own image. Male and female he has created us. He forms each one in the womb. He created the cultural diversity that we see and will have that diversity on display in heaven as a multitude from every nation, tribe and tongue will surround his throne!

This beautiful message is not one of tolerance but of the sovereign grace of a holy God. Though our sins are intolerable, God has made a way to be on his right side. He has done this through Jesus. It is his life, death and resurrection that is our only hope. He is our peace.

We do not need the approval of the world or to be on “the right side of history” as others see it. In the midst of the madness, it is time we speak the truth to the culture: God’s world. God’s rules.

This article was originally posted at The Gospel Forum and is used here with the Author’s permission. 

Josh Sherrell is the Associate Pastor of Providence Church in Lehigh Acres, Florida. He has served in pastoral ministry for 10 years. He and his wife, Carolina, have three children together. Josh is also a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he is pursuing an MDiv in Biblical and Theological Studies.
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