Jesus Is Intolerant
This is important to know because when talking about Jesus being intolerant – and by the world’s redefinition of that word, He is – we need to know that that does not equal hate. In fact, it’s demonstration of the greatest love in the universe. Now that’s out of the road, hopefully you’ll give me to the end of the article to explain in detail!
Yet Another Redefinition
Having made an audacious claim that Jesus is intolerant perhaps I’d better substantiate that very quickly. The definition I’m relying on to make this claim is the one commonly used in mainstream media and “progressive” politics. They claim that intolerance means disagreeing with someone’s lifestyle or choices, such as homosexuality or abortion.
What this new definition means is you can’t disagree with their ideas or obstruct their “progressive” social agendas. Furthermore, they assume such disagreement must extend to include a personal condemnation and rejection of anyone holding that idea which they advocate. So now if you merely disagree with them, you must be a bigoted hater.
So did Jesus love all ideas, behaviours and lifestyles, or was He in fact intolerant by the new definition?
Let’s have a look at an example commonly referred to when people faced with the fearsome spectre of disagreement retort, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” This is a reference to the account of the woman caught in sexual sin. I deliberately use that broader term as it helps us realise it isn’t just adultery that Jesus has an opinion on.
“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
He Who Is Without Sin
Can I just make this point first? “Stoning” someone is capital punishment; it’s execution. So if you tell me I can’t throw stones because I’m not perfect, I agree. I’m not trying to kill anyone or recommend it as public policy, so the reference is completely invalid. But if someone does make this reference, it’s a colossal “own goal” against their position. This passage of Scripture and example from Jesus really does highlight how compassion and righteousness are not mutually exclusive.
Recapping the scene, the political enemies of Jesus were again trying to trap Him with His own words and get Him to contradict God’s moral laws and the consequences of that sin as set out by the Law of Moses (which Jesus came the first time to save us from).
Without saying “Yeah, let’s kill her!” or “Leave her alone, you bigots!”, Jesus merely invited them to qualify themselves to help execute her. He said that the person who had no faults which also require punishment under the law should step right up and let her rip. The older guys got the implication of this teaching quicker than the younger ones. Probably with the benefit of a little more self-awareness, they realised that true justice is blind, and that it spares no one. No one is perfect, and we all deserve to be condemned until Someone perfect takes away our sin.
So they made quiet and discreet exits one by one until the last guy standing there looked around and realised how dumb he looked, and he too left the poor woman alone with Jesus.
The Intolerance Part
Jesus did not say their interpretation of the Law or morality was wrong.
In fact, He said the opposite. He said to the woman, “Go and sin no more.” How can you stop sinning if you’re not sinning? Jesus explicitly identified her behaviour and lifestyle choices, her sexual immorality, as wrong – as sin. Jesus was therefore intolerant, a hateful bigot by modern “progressive” standards. How dare He dictate what she does in the privacy of her bedroom! That sounds familiar because you’ve heard it before. It’s a common companion to complaints about disagreement over whether or not society is well served by redefining marriage and subsequently morality.
But Jesus was not hateful, although that should go without saying. In fact, the preferred focus in the retelling of this account, right after, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”, is when Jesus gently says to her, “Neither do I condemn you.”
Jesus did not say to the blood-thirsty crowd, “Let him who is without sin cast the first accusation, criticism or comment.” Do not read into this things it does not say. He went on to make a two part statement to the woman which He would also have commended any of the Pharisees for, and which we can also follow the example of.
“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Jesus was an intolerant, hateful bigot by modern “progressive” standards.
Tolerance Versus Real Love
Real love is what motivated Jesus to say to the woman caught in sexual sin, “…Go and sin no more.”
Picture in your mind that this poor woman may have been a prostitute trying to make an income in a society that severely disadvantaged women. She may have been swept up in an ill-conceived romance with a neighbour, but she had been caught in the very act of adultery. How humiliating and degrading for her. It is not unlikely that she was actually set up in the effort to entrap Jesus in the grace versus law debate. It speaks to the pathetic regard they had for women that she was answering for this act that, takes two, alone.
Not having sealed roads or paths, she would have been covered in dust as she was thrown down at least half-naked in the dirt. Her tear-stained cheeks accompanied hair that was disheveled after being physically assaulted as she instinctively tried to resist the rough justice she knew was coming. The death that awaited her was gruesome and horrible. She’d probably seen it happen before.
Maybe she heard every word as she lay there fearfully, like the slow motion detail with which one remembers a glass falling from a bench. Maybe she merely huddled in the fetal position, hands inadequately covering her head from the blows of the large rocks she anticipated, in a near catatonic state, oblivious to fact of the angry mob’s quiet departure.
But at some point, she lifted her gaze and her eyes met the compassionate, merciful eyes of Jesus.
“Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
Composing herself as best someone can after a near-death experience of the worst kind, drying her eyes and smoothing her hair she said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
At that point I have no doubt she also knew she had offended God in Person. The woman famous for being caught in sexual sin understood Jesus did not approve of what she had done maybe for many years, but that He loved her anyway.
Be Intolerant Like Jesus
Jesus is infinitely gracious and merciful towards people, but severely intolerant towards the corrupting curse of sin. It is simplistically stated in the cliche, love the sinner; hate the sin. It’s precisely because you love someone like Jesus did that you can and must say, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Like Jesus, we must resist the “progressive” dogma that ideas cannot be separated from individuals, or that issues are the same as identities.
“Aggressively practice love: the new tolerance simply avoids offending someone; love actively seeks to promote the other’s good.
The new tolerance says, “You must approve of what I do.”
Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will love you, even when your behaviour offends me.”
The new tolerance says, “You must agree with me.”
Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will tell you the truth because I am convinced the truth will set you free.”
The new tolerance says, “You must allow me to have my way.”
Love responds, “I must do something harder; I will plead with you to follow the right way, because I believe you are worth the risk.”
Pursuing truth and practicing love: this is the way we will avoid abusing tolerance.”
It is not loving to let someone be wrong. It is hateful. If someone believes smoking has no consequences and they want the government to stop interfering in their lifestyle choices, it is not hateful to disagree and say, “Hey, that’s bad for you.” It’s actually loving. Tolerance would be hateful – to stay silent for fear of offense, or worse, for fear of being labelled a bigot, a hater, or a tobaccophobe. The real hate is easily recognised coming from the person offering insulting labels. The real love is easily recognised as concern beyond oneself to others, and for society as a whole.
One difference between speaking truth on a personal level and on a social level is that at the personal level, the choice is entirely left up to the person whether or not to walk in the light of God’s truth. On the social level, not only do we speak truth in love, but we also insert ourselves practically into the solution as the Good Samaritan did. Jesus shared this story to illustrate the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbours. The Good Samaritan gave generously of his time, his effort, his resources, and he took a long term interest in the outcome for his neighbour, even though his neighbour despised him.
The Good Samaritan gave generously of his time, his effort, his resources, and he took a long term interest in the outcome.
Intolerance Versus Indifference
Sadly even some less mature Christians believe the lie that it’s loving & Christ-like to “live and let live”. Paul describes such Christians as, “children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” His solution? That the Church – you and I – should speak the truth in love, and grow up in all things into Jesus Christ. Speak the truth and grow up.
Speaking the truth is love. Withholding truth actually does harm, and is hateful. Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” The homosexual lobby of Canada cites figures and statistics, more than a decade after redefining marriage there, that the health of their community is far worse than the population average. Failing to warn about the consequences of ignoring God’s plan for sexuality and marriage, or worse, pretending there’s no difference between God’s design and man’s redesign, is failing to love.
Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Christ-imitators – Christians – also say, “I’m not condemning you to any kind of punishment, but you really need to know how bad that idea is for you and society.” Anything less than this Christ kind of intolerance is hateful indifference.
Speak the Truth in Love
Speaking the truth in love doesn’t prohibit hurting someone’s feelings. Especially nowadays, it seems a lot of people are determined to be offended. Many people choose to be identified by their behaviours or ideas, and so a legitimate and well-motivated concern or criticism about their behaviours or ideas is wrongly perceived as personal condemnation. If someone is engaging in or advocating behaviour that harms themselves or others, the greater harm is caused by our silence.
In every case, 1 Peter 3:15 guides us to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have, and to do this with gentleness and respect. Like Jesus. Do be careful not to confuse such sincere enquirers with the hostile enemies of truth. Jesus spoke to them quite differently, quite harshly, quite intolerantly.
But nor does “speaking the truth in love” cavalierly seek to hurt someone’s feelings. Although most Christians are not looking for a fight, there is a spectrum of personalities and maturities in the Church. If you find yourself treating everyone like Jesus treated the Pharisees, you may need to reconsider the balance of His relationships with other sinners and move further along the path to gracious and tactful discussions.
If someone is engaging in or advocating behaviour that harms themselves or others, the greater harm is caused by our silence.
There is a new unforgivable sin according to “progressives”. It’s intolerance. Everything else must be tolerated.
Hypocritically, and thus soundly defeating their own logic, the one thing that shouldn’t be tolerated in their humanistic, relativistic worldview is intolerance. They refuse to tolerate intolerance. They hate people they perceive as haters, and subsequently derive licence to persecute, condemn and vilify anyone disagreeing with their short-sighted brand of love. Behold the irony of their forebodings about the nature of discussions from Christians leading up to a plebiscite on marriage!
- Where the world values tolerance, Jesus values real love.
- The world hates intolerance; Jesus hates indifference to your neighbour being harmed.
- The world homogenises issues with identities; Jesus identifies sin and refuses to condemn individuals.
The Church – you and I – have a prophetic voice to society which is motivated by love, speaks truth, promotes the other’s good and sets them free from the corrupting curse of sin. We love our neighbours, our nation, even when offended or in disagreement, and plead with everyone to follow the right way – God’s way – because real love demands nothing less.