Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Melissa Kruger on unloving tolerance and the loving intolerance of God


H/T to  Bishop Steve Wood for this article from the Gospel Coalition by Melissa Kruger.
Lest we somehow think Jesus represents a different God than the one of the Old Testament, though, consider his teaching to the disciples in Matthew 10:14-15:

And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Jesus claims a greater judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah for those who reject the message of the gospel. He warned many would believe they knew him, only to learn they have been rejected with these words: "Depart from me, all you workers of evil!" (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 13:22-27) Rather than find welcome into God's kingdom, they would find themselves in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Both the Old and New Testaments display a God who doesn't tolerate sin. Yet there is one story in Scripture that demonstrates most clearly the intolerance of God.

It is the story of the cross.

Take a fresh look at the terrifying and uncomfortable reality of the cross. Here is an innocent man—whipped, beaten, nailed to a tree, bearing the sins of the world. For you. For me. Is this the picture of a tolerant God who ignores evil? No, this is a gruesome picture of divine wrath and judgment. The story makes no sense if God is a tolerant God.

The cross demonstrates God's character in all its complexity. It shows his love, kindness, and mercy united with his justice, holiness, and wrath. It perfectly demonstrates a God who surpasses understanding. The Lord is giving us a glimpse into the immensity of his love for us. The love of God is not a tolerant love. It is much better. It is a redemptive love.
Tolerance, as Kruger notes earlier in her article, is not a biblical virtue. Christians are not called to tolerate anyone. Rather, they are called to love everyone. Tolerance is easy. It only requires overlooking your neighbor's annoying, obnoxious, and often offensive shortcomings. Love is much more difficult. It requires looking beyond those shortcomings and recognizing the image of God, however imperfectly it may be reflected, in your neighbor and going out of your way, to the point of self-sacrifice, to help him recognize it as well.