Primers: On Sin and Tolerance

I’d like to welcome you all to my new blog series (don’t know how often I’ll keep it updated), called Primers. It means to be what it says: a series of primers on Christian topics. These may be explanations/summaries of theological or apologetic topics, or it could be – as this post is – a Q&A/FAQ post, providing an answer to a curiosity or objection toward the Christian way of doing things. I hope to have this be a regular or semi-regular series, but being as I’m quite busy most of the time (I’m in a grad program), this series may be posted here and there generally. But let’s hope not. Anyways, here we go:

Q: What’s wrong with being tolerant of diverse lifestyles in a Christian community, that the Bible may call sinful?

A: First and foremost, we’re called away from sin. Paul, in addressing Mars Hill in Athens, said that God, then (at the time of Paul’s ministry) and for all time afterwards, calls everyone to repent (Acts 17:30). Secondly, the church is special in God’s sight – Scripture calls it holy, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-10). This same set of verses calls us God’s people. In the verses that immediately follow it, in verses 11-12, we’re called to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage against our soul. Now, Peter does say that he ‘urges’ us to abstain from the passions of the flesh – might this mean that it’s merely a neutral suggestion, one that could be disregarded in a sinless fashion? No. Not at all. Paul, in Galatians 5:16-24, dives into what the flesh is spiritually, and all the horror it entails and how it severs our relationship with God. With Peter and Paul’s words put together, we have a clear biblical stance on abstaining from the flesh and putting to death our sinful desires as best we can, day to day, both individually and corporately as a church body.

Thirdly, there is biblical precedent for spiritual discipline within the church to stamp out sin within it – what is popularly known as ‘church discipline’ in today’s Christian sphere. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul forcefully calls out the Corinthian church for being tolerant of sexual sin within their midst and explains that sin, when known about and tolerated within the church, will spread its destructive consequences and nature throughout the whole congregation.

So we then see that the Bible clearly teaches that sin must not be tolerated within the congregation. Now it must be stated, this does not mean that a brother or sister in sin must be abandoned to the world. No, they must be called to repentance, as Paul says in the case of the Corinthians that the offending member must be ejected from the congregation with the eventual end goal of having him restored to fellowship and right standing with God (‘so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord’ 1 Cor. 5:5b, ESV). It must also be stated that what drives God’s policy here is love. It is not loving to allow someone to remain in sin, even if the person is very happy and content in that sin, and it is not unloving to call someone to repentance, even if that means pushing them out of their comfort zone and forcing them to stare the reality of their predicament in the face. Sometimes being a loving brother/sister and being your brother/sister’s keeper means standing against your fellow member in sin for the good of your fellow member in sin.

So the Bible is clear. Sin is not to be tolerated within the congregation, and it is completely unbiblical to be ‘tolerant’ of sin in the congregation, no matter how fashionable or progressive said tolerance may seem or how closed-minded or backwards the biblical stance may seem.

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