As a personal and civic virtue, tolerance can be a tricky attitude to master without becoming morally rudderless.
In fact, the modern implementation of tolerance can be a deadly vice. Even typing these words makes me feel disloyal to 50 years of inculturation in the public adoration of “tolerance.”
We are allowed in the polite company of the ruling elite only when we agree to “tolerate” that which should otherwise be intolerable. To enjoy the peace of the elite, we must stop pursuing public righteousness.
Sure, it is alright in the privacy of your home to do moral things and think moral thoughts … but we are told you must not allow that morality to influence your public life and decisions.
The purveyors of sin and vice demand we ”tolerate” their activities. They know that, with time and exposure, the solid mooring of morality can be worn away. Public tolerance becomes acquiescence, which slips neatly into participation.
Think back to God’s command to His people after He freed them from bondage. He told them to conquer the Promised Land, to completely destroy the temples and altars to the false gods, and to drive out all worshippers of those false gods. To be a self-governing people under His law, God told them, they needed to drive out those things incompatible with His righteousness.
Time and again, the people would always start to obey; they wanted those benefits. But then they would capitulate. They would decide it was easier to tolerate the evil in their midst than obey God. Time and again, their tolerance of false gods and false worship led to their enslavement and misery … often at the hands of the adherents of the false religions they were tolerating.
“The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” We find that phrase repeated time and again. And what they “did” started with tolerating the presence of evil.
Capitulation to sin begins with toleration of sinful activity.
We’ve all heard variations of the truism found in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” The very next sentence, which is just as true, continues: “Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning.”
Any critique of society’s tolerance of “bad company” is usually countered by a variation of “Jesus was so tolerant. Why can’t you be more like Jesus?” It sounds so spiritual.
Do they mean the Jesus who overturned tables outside the temple and ran out the money-changers with a whip? The Jesus who called the political leaders of the day a “brood of vipers”?
That Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, isn’t welcome in the 2020s. Nowhere in Scripture do you find a Jesus who coddles unrepentant sinners. Nowhere do you find a Jesus who tolerates sin. You repeatedly find a Jesus who meets sinners where they are, and then tells them to “sin no more.” Some do and follow Him; others leave.
“Sin no more” is loving the sinner so much as to not tolerate the sin. By tolerating sin, we are condemning people to lives of pain and misery. And perhaps worse.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “If I must choose between righteousness and peace, I choose righteousness.”
Self-governance starts with governing ourselves, and helping those around us to do likewise. If we expect to enjoy the benefits of living in a righteous land, we must set aside political tolerance and pursue lives of righteousness.