Tolerance and Intolerance, License and Legalism

“History,is like a drunk man on a horse. No sooner does he fall off on the left side, does he mount again and fall off on the right.” (Martin Luther)

In the last post we looked at the polarizing issues of tolerance and intolerance in our society.

People who champion tolerance can usually be seen to live as if there is no God, at least in the practical sense.  That is, at least they live as if there are no standards that God is concerned with.  This is a moral approach we could call “license”.  They give themselves and others a “license” to live just about any way they want.  They are long on liberty and short on rules.  Their main rule is that people should not make rules for others. They feel that if the world was filled with people just like them it would be a much better place to live.

People who champion conformity to their convictions (the intolerant), can usually be seen to live as if they are God for others! This is a moral approach we could call “legalism”.  These folks act as if they are the moral police for others and are responsible for critiquing the choices and actions of everyone around them.  They are long on rules and opinions about what everyone else is doing wrong… and short on liberty. They feel that if the world was filled with people just like them it would be a much better place to live.

Both of these extremes, as I said in the last post, are rooted in self-righteousness.  There is surprising little difference in the deepest heart motives of the two.  They both are blind to their own sin.  Even if their sins are of very different categories.

Those who promote tolerance can be found to be incredibly angry and intolerant toward those who do not prize liberty.  And those who promote intolerance are found to be angry toward those who do not prize their standards of decency and behavior.  Both groups are tolerant toward those who agree with them and intolerant of those who don’t. 

Each group’s own sense of righteousness is built upon promoting their own agenda and trying to convince the world around them to adopt it.  And both groups have little or no compassion for those in the other camp.

But Jesus doesn’t side with either bunch.  The righteousness of God is not found in legalism.  And the mercy of God is not found in license.  Jesus didn’t come to make it okay to live in sin.  And Jesus didn’t come to create an elite class of moralists whose job is to condemn everybody around them!  Jesus didn’t come to make everyone feel accepted.  Neither did He come to make everyone feel rejected.

He came to deliver us from our self-righteousness (regardless of its form) and to restore us to a real relationship with God – a relationship based upon His love and His truth.

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