Are Christians Supposed to be Tolerant?

In a world where intolerance of anything is condemned, it can be hard to stand up for your faith. But what's the line between standing up for the truth and being judgmental? Click here to find out!

Have you ever been asked your opinion on something, and you knew that your opinion would not be welcomed? You know, that one issue that the world doesn’t agree with you on? Something everyone’s supposed to be tolerant of?

I’ve been asked by non-Christian friends if I think homosexuality is okay, and have even been challenged on this issue in a sociology class (and I wasn’t even the one doing the presentation). As a Christian with a biblical perspective on homosexuality, how do you answer that honestly without seeming like a terrible person?

Simple answer: you can’t. But seriously. How do you stand up for your faith, especially when Christians have a reputation of being judgmental, intolerant people?

Most Christians live by the “don’t judge anyone” motto. We are instructed not to judge others. The familiar passage from Matthew 7:1 – 2 is used to as a reference point:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

The chapter continues for the next few verses, instructing us to examine ourselves and remove the “planks” in our eyes before telling our brother/sister about the “speck” in his or her eye.

I believe we as Christians hide behind this verse so many times—yes, hide. There are issues that we simply don’t deal with because of this verse. We don’t want to be seen as judgmental or seem intolerant. We want to be seen as the “good kind” of Christians—not the arrogant, self-righteous ones. We want to show the world we love it. After all, Jesus Himself told us very clearly not to judge.

But…hold on. Jesus judged. Jesus had incredibly strong words for the Pharisees hypocritical actions because they looked righteous, but their hearts were far from God. Jesus told people that unless they repented, they would not have everlasting life. In the Old Testament, God brought judgment on His people over and over again as they strayed from Him. In 1 Corinthians 5:1 – 5, Paul instructs the church to kick out a man who has been practicing sexual immorality, with the ultimate goal of bringing him to repentance and healing.

Is it okay to judge or not?

Jesus told us not to judge, then He went and judged people. Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 7.

The passage starts with Jesus’ words: “Judge not.” We tend to read that verse and just kind of stop there. But Jesus doesn’t. He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” To clarify, Jesus continues to say that the measure we use to judge others will be used to judge us as well. In other words, you have to be able to take whatever you dish out.

Please let me be clear. I don’t think this verse is saying: Hey, as long as you’re not prideful, you can call others on their pride. I think Jesus was making a point: we can’t judge each other because whatever guidelines we use to judge will be flawed, since we’re flawed people.

When we point out others’ flaws, it is usually an indicator that we’re insecure about ourselves. It means that we feel the need to prove ourselves (and therefore, tearing others down) and that we aren’t really walking in God’s love and grace if we seek others’ approval.

We will all be judged according to God’s perfect Law. He is the true Judge, and no one can escape this judgment, although those who have been redeemed by Christ will be free of condemnation. If we know someone is breaking God’s Law (not our personal “law”), there is nothing wrong with going to them and saying, “I see that this is happening in your life and I know God isn’t pleased.” In fact, we are supposed to rebuke and correct. There’s a big difference between being accountable with each other and criticizing each other. One is for the benefit of the person, while the other is to make ourselves feel good.

Judging in and of itself is not wrong. The issue here is what we use to judge. Are we using God’s Law or our church’s traditions? Are we concerned about obeying Jesus or getting others to agree with our opinions? Are we basing our judgments on what God sees in the heart, or what we see on the outside of people?

So what about tolerance?

There are too many nice Christians in the world. Christians who are tolerant, non-judgmental, all-inclusive and passive. We have not been called to be any of these things. We are told to speak the truth in love. We are to be accountable to each other.

There are many things in the world and our culture that the Church doesn’t agree with. Injustice happens. We cannot expect unbelievers to act the same way a believer would. We can’t impose our beliefs on someone who doesn’t have the same faith that we do. This means that we can’t simply go around protesting any and everything we disagree with. As Christians, we need to choose our battles and make sure that we are doing nothing out of conceit or personal opinion, but rather on the basis of God’s truth.

It is not a Christian’s job to create a Christian-friendly society. Jesus tells us time and time again that we will have trouble in the world. That we will be persecuted for Him. That the world will hate us because of Him. It’s not our job to get upset over every single thing. Yes, we should stand against injustice. We shouldn’t be okay with abortion or human trafficking or racism. But everything we do should be done in love.

Let’s stop being passive and start being brave. Let’s stop being tolerant and start being truthful. Let’s stop trying to please ourselves and start pleasing God. Let’s speak the Truth in love and be witnesses of God’s love to the world.

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