In "Other" Words...Misunderstood Peace, Part 1

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
~ Matthew 10:34

Tolerance.  In the 1828 Webster's Dictionary, it was defined this way...

TOL'ERANCE, n. [L. tolerantia, from tolero, to bear.] The power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring.

Today, Dictionary.Com defines it as follows:

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.

(I didn't add the medical, machining, and coining definitions, in the interest of space.)

Tolerance, as defined in Dictionary.Com's first 3 entries,  has become one of the great defining  virtues of our day.  And to be intolerant, in many circles, is the greatest possible sin.  

Not only are *we* expected to be tolerant, but because tolerance has become such a great, over-riding virtue in our time, that "virtue" has been projected onto God.  After all, "God is love" and "Peace on Earth" are what God is all about, right?  God wants all men to live at peace, and everyone to love one another, so of course He is a tolerant God...that only makes sense.  Peace, love, and tolerance are all part of the same package, according to many.  If we love people, we will be tolerant of whatever beliefs they have or choices they make, and if we would just be tolerant of everyone, then everyone could live at peace.  

Except...it doesn't work that way.

I've been bombarded recently with this topic...bombarded both with God's truth, and with examples of the world's confusion and false teachings.  

Some months ago, Bro. Kent began preaching through the book of Romans on Sunday mornings.  I had no idea when we started that study how much God was going to use it in my life.  For the last few weeks, we have been studying what the Bible says about the wrath of God in Romans 1-2.  Not especially happy stuff...in fact, it's a subject that many today...even many churches...choose to ignore.  After all, we wouldn't want to scare anyone off.  "Wrath" doesn't sound very peaceful, loving, or tolerant.  People say, "Surely a loving God wouldn't really send anyone to Hell!"   And yet, as Bro. Kent said a few weeks ago, "Without the doctrine of the wrath of God, the doctrine of salvation is worthless."  Yes, a loving God *will* send people to Hell...everyone who rejects Him, in fact.  The loving part is that He made a way of salvation from that wrath...through the death and resurrection of His perfect Son, Jesus.  And through that salvation He brings perfect peace...not in the world, where there will *never* be peace until the second coming of Christ, but in the hearts of those who have accepted His gift.  

I've mentioned before that I came face-to-face with the "We must be open and accepting of all beliefs because to say that there is only one way to God or Heaven is intolerant" viewpoint just a few weeks ago while planning my grandfather's funeral.  The people who were espousing this view were well-meaning, sincere, peace-seeking people who truly feel that all the great problems in the world could be solved if no one insisted that there is a "right way".  If all people could just be tolerant of the beliefs of others, there would be true peace on earth, in their view.  Like the Jews waiting and watching for their Messiah, they are looking for a world-wide political peace...and in the process, missing completely the peace that passes understanding that Jesus actually came to bring. 

During the time this was going on, I began reading John MacArthur's The Jesus You Can't Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ
, which a friend had given me for Christmas.  Wow!   Not only was this an amazingly timely gift, it is one of the few books that I will say I think every person should read.  So many of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, have a mental picture of Jesus as a meek, mild-mannered man carrying a baby lamb in His arms and never getting His feathers ruffled about sin, but accepting everyone just as they were.  MacArthur points out that this couldn't be further from the truth.  Yes, Jesus preached love, and He came to bring peace, but again, not the way the Jews of that day expected, or the way the world today would have us believe.  The Jesus of the New Testament loved the sinner, but never tolerated sin.  He confronted false teaching, threw the money-changers out of the Temple, and never backed down from His claim to be the Son of God and the *only* way to the Father.  He was crucified for His intolerance, which the Jews labeled blasphemy.  

Then last Wednesday I ran across a couple of links I posted as "Midweek Inspiration".   I was having "one of those weeks" (you know the ones...), and the Spurgeon quote and the story of pianist Leon Fleisher both really touched a chord with me, in a comforting, challenging, motivating kind of way.  Just hours after posting, however, I received an email from an anonymous blog reader labeling me as "intolerant", due to my expressing sadness that such an amazing pianist with such an incredible attitude about the suffering he has experienced did not appear to acknowledge the Giver of all good gifts.  After labeling me as intolerant, the reader then asked, "Does your God like that about you?"

I was struck once again by the confusion of so many about Who God Is.  My first thought was, "I serve an intolerant God."   A God of love, yes.  A God of mercy, grace, and forgiveness, yes.  A God who grants peace that passes all understanding, yes.  But also a jealous God, a God of wrath, a God who can have nothing to do with sin, with evil, with false teaching, and who commands us to flee from them as well. 

It took two days and much prayer to compose my reply to this anonymous reader.  In Part 2 of this post, I will share more of my response to him or her.  In the meantime, here's an excerpt:

"The world equates "love" somehow with tolerance.  And yet, if I truly believe God's Word is true (which I do), and I truly believe that the God of the Bible is the one true God (which I do), and I truly believe that salvation through Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven (which I do) and the alternative is an eternity in Hell (which I do), then the least loving thing I can do, for Mr. Fleisher, for the readers of my blog, or for anyone else, is to pretend agreement with them that "any religion", or no religion, is okay.  They certainly have the freedom to believe whatever they choose.   And I am responsible to be gracious and loving to the *person* regardless of their beliefs.  But that does not mean that I am to be tolerant or accepting of evil or of false teaching.   I am also responsible to graciously and lovingly and boldly proclaim the truth, both out of love for others, and out of obedience to God.   If their choice is to reject God and spend an eternity in Hell as a consequence, I don't want it to be because I didn't lovingly and boldly share the truth of God's Word."

Peace with the world should not be our goal.  Standing on truth will create division.  In fact, we are told to expect hatred and persecution. (John 15:18-20; 2 Tim. 3:12)   But we can have peace:  

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. 
Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 
~John 14:27

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7

I haven't heard back from that reader.  I am praying that God will open his or her heart to the truth of God's Word.  I pray that that reader and others will find the peace that only God can give.  

Thank you to Esthermay for hosting In "Other" Words this week and selecting this quote.  Please visit her blog, From the Heart of a Pastor's Wife, to see what others have written on this verse.  Also, check back here for "Misunderstood Peace, Part 2", where I will share more of my response to last week's anonymous email.  


MiPa said...

Powerful response to the anonymous detractor. It is loving to tell the truth, even about the jealousy of God. Maybe not p.c., but loving. The confusion that so many have regarding the "peace" and "love" of the Bible make walking the narrow way that much more of a challenge. Thanks for sharing your journey on the narrow road.

Debbie said...

Jennifer, you make some very good points in your post. I hear the word tolerance all the time too. But there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus.

We don't have to be in your face towards people who sin. After all, Jesus engaged the woman at the well in conversation. But He didn't tell her it was OK to live with a man who wasn't her husband.

Great post and Scripture for this IOWT.


Tami Boesiger said...


Being accused of intolerance is exactly the kind of division Jesus was talking about. You did a good job being gentle without compromising truth in your reply.

Denise Hughes said...

The funny thing about those who call Christians "intolerant" is the fact that they are actually intolerant themselves! They are intolerant of Christians!

Whenever someone sends an anonymous complaint or criticism, it's sort of like dropping a bomb and then running to hide. But it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in and then sign your name at the bottom. I appreciate the grace, and the courage, with which you responded.

Esthermay said...

oH! AMen, dear sister in Jesus! We are on the same page on this culture of 'tolerance.'

Way too many Christians have just ripped the entire Book of Romans out of their Bibles and have this crazy notion that the Gospel of Salvation can touch them without their having to accept any of the precious teaching and doctrine they've chosen to IgnOrE!!! omigoodness! there's a run-on sentence ...you've seized on my passion. :-)

I stand on the word of God including the parts that confront us! It is not "judging" to point out what the JUDGE has already said.

Wonderful Lessons here in your post today. THANK you for sharing this!