If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:6-9 ESV
IN RECENT YEARS, the concept of tolerance has been taught to our children and been imposed as the rule that governs workplace behavior, informs the precepts that structure social gatherings, and even dictates the relationship and resolution of marriages.
However, as we venture into the season of Lent and into great contemplation of our own condition before God, we realize that tolerance has no place in our lives.
Our Lord is not a Lord of tolerance but of a refining fire (Hebrews 12:9).
His word teaches that evil cannot exist in his presence, and he hates all those who do evil (Psalm 5:4-5).
In Christ, his words from Ezekiel 33:11 took on flesh: “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”
He ate with sinners and tax collectors, not tolerating their sinful condition but calling them to turn from their sinful way of life (Luke 5:31-32).
Jesus moving to sinners does not demonstrate his tolerance for sin but exemplifies the degree in which he would go to call sinners to repentance.
What is sin? Sin is missing the mark. We are told numerous times in the book of Leviticus, “Be holy, For I the Lord your God am holy.” (One example: Leviticus 19:2).
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, after telling those gathered that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), that we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48), Paul instructs us as Christians as to what is expected of our lives, that we are to live in a manner worthy of our calling as God’s people (Ephesians 4:1).
The reality is, though, that we all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Countless times, we all confess the words of Paul from Romans 7:18: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
To say that we do not sin, as 1st John says, is a lie, and to believe that we are without sin means we deceive ourselves and that no truth lives in us.
We at times play games in our minds in an attempt to ease our troubled conscience.
We might seek to convince ourselves that there are degrees of sin.
The truth is that sin is sin and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV). God tolerates none of it. To tolerate sin would mean to approve of it.
That means approving of your lying, your cheating, your selfishness and self-righteousness. That means approving my sin.
With all of this in mind, to think that the world teaches that the death sin causes in relationship to God and one another is something to be tolerated is the greatest display of neglect, disregard and abandonment; not to mention dereliction in regard to the responsibility to teach, rebuke and restore one another (1 Timothy 4:2, Galatians 6:1).
In Romans 6:23, we read, “The wages of Sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You and I have forgiveness, but forgiveness is not the same as tolerance. In fact, it is the opposite.
Forgiveness does not make room for sin or ignore the marred existence it places on the lives of those who embrace sin.
Forgiveness is confrontational. It calls a thing what it is.
It forces the offender to realize and deal with the pain they have caused as well as displaying the love of the one who freely forgives.
Christ did not display tolerance to sin when he submitted himself to the lashing, the torture and death he was given on Good Friday. Tolerance was not what guided the will of the Father to send his Son into the world to redeem it, but true love (John 3:16), a love that propelled Christ as he spoke the words in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).
If we had a god who tolerated our sin, we would still be dead in our sin, still an enemy to him, still unable to approach him. I don’t know about you, but I do not want my sin tolerated.
Thanks be to God that he is not governed by tolerance but driven by his love that placed him on a cross. Thanks be to God that our sin is not tolerated but counted among the transgressions that were paid for by Jesus’ blood.
To tolerate sin is to diminish the work of God as he reconciled you to himself through the blood of his son (2 Corinthians 5:11-21), It is quite interesting how something that seems innocent and beneficial, like that of tolerance, is so divergent from Scriptural truth and works to remove Christ from the cross.
Therefore, run to the cross of the Christ and away from the fallacy that our choices and actions have no eternal consequence and that God is tolerant of evil.
Run to the cross and see God anew, as he demonstrates intolerance, confronting the death and sin that separated us from himself.
See God as he truly is, that through his blood, he is active, involved and invested in your life.
Run to the cross and experience how “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]