The Sin of Tolerance

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Billy Graham
Billy Graham (Ross Busby/BGEA)

At home and abroad, the American people plead for broad-mindedness, tolerance and charity. Abroad, our ambassadors use all of their powers to influence warring parties to come to the conference table in a spirit of give-and-take. There is a sense in which the world needs broad-mindedness and tolerance.

However, in the realm of Christian experience there is a need for intolerance. In some things Christ was the most tolerant, broad-minded Man who ever lived, but in other things He was one of the most intolerant.

Tolerance Can Become Too Stretched
One of the pet words of this age is tolerance. It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area. We have applied it, too often, where it does not belong. The word tolerant means liberal and broad-minded. In one sense, it implies the compromise of one’s convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues.

We have become tolerant about divorce, the use of alcohol, delinquency, wickedness in high places, immorality, crime and godlessness. We have been sapped of conviction, drained of our beliefs and we are bereft of our faith.

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The sciences, however, are narrow-minded. There is no room for careless broad-mindedness in the laboratory. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level; it is never 100 degrees nor 189 degrees, nor 211. Fresh water freezes at 32 degrees; it is never 23 degrees nor 31.

Mathematics is also narrow-minded. The sum of two plus two is four, never three-and-a-half. Geometry is narrow-minded. It says that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points on a plane. A compass is narrow-minded; it always points to the magnetic north. If it were broad-minded, ships at sea and planes in the air would be in danger.

If you should ask a man the directions to New York City and he said, “Oh, just take any road you wish, they all lead to New York,” you would question both his sanity and his truthfulness. Nevertheless, we have somehow gotten it into our minds that “all roads lead to heaven.”

But Jesus Christ, who journeyed from heaven to Earth and back to heaven again, who knew the way better than anyone who ever lived, said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

Jesus Was Narrow About the Way of Salvation
Jesus plainly pointed out that there are two roads in life. One is broad, lacking in faith, convictions and morals. It is the easy, popular, careless way. Jesus said, “There are many who go in by it.” But He pointed out that this road, heavily traveled though it is, leads to destruction. And in loving, compassionate intolerance, He says: “Enter by the narrow gate … because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.”

His was the intolerance of a pilot who maneuvers his plane through the storm, realizing that a single error, just one flash of broad-mindedness, might bring disaster to all his passengers.

Once when we were flying from Korea to Japan, we ran through a rough snowstorm. When we arrived over the airport in Tokyo, the ceiling and visibility were almost zero. The pilot had to make an instrument landing. I sat up in the cockpit and watched him sweat it out as a man in the tower at the airport talked us in.

I did not want this man to be broad-minded. I wanted him to be narrow-minded. I knew that our lives depended on it. Just so, when we come in for the landing in the great airport in heaven, I don’t want any broad-mindedness. I want to come in on the beam, and even though I may be considered narrow here, I want to be sure of a safe landing there.

Christ was so intolerant of our lost estate that He left His lofty throne in the heavenlies, took on Himself the form of man, suffered at the hands of evil men and died on a cruel cross of shame to purchase our redemption. So serious was our plight that He could not look upon it lightly. He could not be broad-minded about a world held captive by its lusts.

Christ spoke of two roads, two kingdoms, two masters, two rewards and two eternities. And He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). We have the power to choose whom we will serve, but the alternative to choosing Christ brings certain destruction. The broad, easy, popular way leads to death and destruction. Only the way of the cross leads home.

Peter was reflecting Christ’s teaching when he said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name [than Jesus Christ] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, brackets added).

The popular, tolerant attitude toward the gospel of Christ is like a person going to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves play a baseball game and rooting for both sides. Baseball fans are very intolerant. If you were to cheer for both sides in Los Angeles or in Atlanta, someone would yell, “Hey, you, make up your mind who you’re rooting for.”

Christ said, “You cannot serve God and mammon … no one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). We need more people who will step out and say unashamedly: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

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