Thursday, 22 September 2005


The watchword of today, and the yardstick: tolerance.

If you look up tolerance in a thesaurus, you'll find not far off the word "charity" - that is, love for one's neighbour. But the tolerance of today is far from that: tolerance instead could be used synonymously with indifference. "You believe differently from me, but I don't care; it's all the same to me." How different to how we are called to live as Christians: with love for our neighbour: "You believe differently to me, and I care for you nevertheless. How strong is the sentiment, attitude and action to which we are called by Christ - not putting up with our neighbour's differences out of dispassionate indifference, but loving our neighbour even in their differences. If we settle for the tolerance of today, we're selling short the gospel life to which we are called - to welcome others as Christ has welcomed us.

Is God then tolerant? Not of sin: to such an extent that his own Son took the punishment for it for those who trust in him. I quote (roughly translated) from David Brown's book 'Passerelles', p.94:

"Can we say that the gospel is intolerant? Yes, it is in its denunciation of evil. However, the steps taken by God to oppose sin are of a pedagogical nature. God reprimands, exhorts and gives time for repentance. God isn't tolerant in the modern sense, that is to say, indifferent, even lax. In a certain sense, you could say that God is tolerant in regard to sin because "He does not deal with us according to our sins" (Ps.103:10). But it is preferable to say that God is patient with his unfaithful creatures, letting them have time to return to Him. It is Christ's sacrifice which took the just and legitimate punishment. Peter said that God "is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Given this delay, the absence of immediate consequences mustn't lead us into error, because God, as Paul said, "now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed" (Acts 17:30-31), that is Jesus Christ."

God is not indifferent, but love. He hates the sin to the extent of the death of Christ and of hell. But he is patient with the sinner, giving time to repent. In our interaction with our neighbours, we are not to be indifferently tolerant, but to love.

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