Christian living: Dealing with the worldly notion of tolerance?

Tolerance versus Discernment


In this sermon the notion o tolerance is examined[1].

We are faced with many worldly concepts or notions, in fact, antichristian notions bombard us daily. It is often impossible to escape them, hence a Christian needs to discern whether these notions, ideas, so call facts or accepted wisdom, should become part of one's life or else whether they should be rejected. In any case, I see in this room many parents, who need to carefully examine these ideas, philosophies or accepted wisdoms - notions - Bible in one hand, knees on the floor, and the mind fully engaged in prayer, so you can spiritually judge the rightness of these things

Christians assimilate concepts and notions of the world often like a sponge does water. We assume because everyone else is doing something, or saying something, we should do so also.

Today I want to talk about the notion of tolerance. This is clearly the "in-word". Ironically the Western world is calling for tolerance amongst its people, when the Western world is agitating for war between people, or at least the United States is followed by others (written just prior to the Iraq war).

(In terms of Christians living in this world, we need as a family, to explore what God has to say on this important matter of war. I will not explore it now. I however implore the elders to, at least, give themselves a thorough grounding in all aspects of Scripture and the place of Christians in war. I suggest before they do this they make themselves familiar with Corrie ten Boom's book "The Hiding Place").

Tolerance and the Christian

Now, tolerance is a word that is use by our leaders to promulgate coordinal living together of "people, nations, and languages" (Daniel 34).

To a Christian tolerance where it is applied to "living with people or with a community", implies:

Tolerance is love

1Jo 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

What is love?

1 Corinthians 13 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Tolerance is peacemaking

Matthew 5:9 Blessed [are] the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

What is peacemaking?

Scripture clearly defines this, and in one place it says:

Matthew 543 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

Indeed tolerance is the fruit of the spirit

Gal 522 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control.

Definition of tolerance

Before continuing lets define tolerance.

Tolerate, according to the dictionary, is to endure, permit the practice or action of a person's doing, allow a person or religious sect to exist, endure with forbearance, sustain, endure suffering. Allowing difference in religious opinion without discrimination.

Note that it is a word countering the negative. Hence tolerable is that of enduring the fairly good, the not bad. It is putting up with religious sects, the abominations of the God as found in the Law, with illness and those niggling pains we all get, with our neighbour or the rough edge of someone.

Indeed the root of the word is from the Latin, durare which means "to harden" - to endure. A person in pain becomes hardened to the pain. They still feel it, but can eventually get on with life without it interfering. My wife and I have a friend like this, and some of you know her. She has a serious back condition, with a unrepairable malalignment of the vertebra at the lower end of the spine, giving rise to constant pain. She tolerates the pain, and gets on with life, not without difficulty, I might add. The battle hardened troops fight the best - they know how to tolerate or endure the very worse. They are not put off; they put up with the dreadful conditions in the theatre of war.

In Greek it comes from the word anechomai (an-ekh'-om-ahee ) which means "to hold oneself up against", to literally put up with - to "bear with endurance".

That is, we have to put up with something we do not like. The word in Scripture is only ever used in the negative. In each case it is when the tolerance, the forbearance, the patience of God has run out. In every case it has to do with sin. God tolerates the sinful state of man, but not forever.

Matthew 1124But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."

These words were said by Jesus in the cities where He did his most mighty works and the people did not repent.

Justification of sin using the notion of tolerance

Christians unfortunately have become so imbued with the word "tolerance" that they have taken a meaning beyond what it was when first promulgated. Satan has twisted it to suit himself. It is clear that the notion of tolerance now includes tolerance of sin; sin in one's own life, sin in the lives of those we are rightfully in charge of, that is our children, and sin within the assembly - the church.

Note carefully at this point, I do not talk about tolerance of sin in this world.

1 Corinthians 59 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

The Christian has no place in entering into a discussion of dealing with the sin of this world. A Christian cannot punish the world for its sin - this God will do. A Christian is a pilgrim in this world, a sojourner as Peter calls it. Our citizenship is elsewhere, as Paul in Philippians states emphatically:

Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ)

We are first and foremost a citizen of heaven. We therefore do not fight a war in another theatre.

Sure, we are rightfully indignant of the sin in this world, but our tolerance is that of patience, and forbearance for the Lord has said:

Romans 1219 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20 Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

As John 521 says There is a judge that will bring down a judgement on the world - his name is Jehovah (ie a krisis as the Greek says).

Christians want to "Do"

We as Christians have only one "doing". We do not "do" the "vengeance". We do not right the wrong. Christ will do this, when he comes in the day of judgement.

The only "doing" concerns Christians who are called to spread the gospel. The salving oil that will heal the sin of the world can only be poured out in the form of the gospel.

Luke 2446-47 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

And furthermore:

Romans 1014 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Satan embodies the notion of tolerance as a weapon to propagate sin

However, time after time I find individuals and the Church justifying its actions based on the notion of tolerance. Be tolerant we are told of homosexuals, be tolerant of sexual immorality - indeed sex in the eyes of the world cannot be immoral. Hence we have over 100 abortions a week in the State where I live.

And in the Church such tolerance is upheld. Be tolerant of your children as they explore their world - don't discipline them, just be tolerant, and we wonder why we have gangs of thugs roaming our streets with an average age of less than 15 years. Be tolerant of stealing time from your employee, or money from the tax department, and so it goes on.

Lastly, if a Christian really gets into the corner, he or she yells out:

Matthew 71 Judge not, that you not be judged!

To Judge

I find many Christians who use this verse, do so to justify themselves or their actions which usually, not always, but usually cannot be called pleasing to God. That is, they more often than not use it in anger to justify their sin.

What I want to explore is this word "judge".

The notion of tolerance which is being promulgated is one that says "what right have you to judge us?" Christians use it in the same light. And in nearly every case, it is a method to justify sin.

Is the Bible contradictory

Before we continue, I want to high-light a problem that the young, and the not so young, but in each case, immature Christians get into. One day I want to explore this further, but for the present:

Turn to and read:

Matthew 71 Judge not, that you not be judged!

Then turn to:

James 411 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of [his] brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

What is this saying? Don't tell your brother that he is wrong, don't speak against someone, do not judge your brother? Is this what it is saying?

No! Go back 7 verses.

James 44 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

You adulterers and adulteresses. What! How can one define a person as being a sinner without judging them? Here James calls a so called Christian (James writes to Christians) an adulterer or adulteress. In Scripture sexual immorality always relates to a Saint falling into the trap of sin. Christians, like a virgin bride, is to keep him or herself pure, that is untainted from the world, for the Lord.

Also read the following passage by Paul:

2 Corinthians 414 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Is James and Paul at odds with each other. Here it says a person cannot join with a non-believer. How does a Christian know that the person he is about to marry is indeed a Christian or a business partner is indeed saved? He needs to judge that person!

So is Scripture contrary?

How do we know that the potential partner for life is suitable for marriage?

Read James 2:14-18 Faith with out works is dead.

Read Matthew 7:17-20 A person is known by his or her fruits

Hence there is a clear method of determining whether a person is suitable as a marriage or business partner - by their works, and by their fruits. But you say the Bible says not to judge?

Christians must Judge right from wrong: it is a command!

In Matthew 71 Jesus says to Judge not lest you be judged. But look at John 724

John 724 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.


1 Corinthians 1131 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.


1 Corinthians 62 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

So what is the problem?

The problem with so called contradictions is the person themself - not the Scripture! Remember when reading Scripture:

"If in this book you choose to look
Five things observe with care
Of whom it speaks,
To whom it speaks
Why and When and Where"

The failure of this most basic instruction has sent many into a tail spin.

The foundation of an example.

In an ordered society we have a number of facets that make up the orderliness. Understanding the construct and its instruments is important. These are God ordained.

Firstly we have a judge. He sits in a court and brings down judgements. No judge makes up the rules by which he judges a person. In which ever court, the judge has a set of criterion - I deliberately use this word as you will see in minute - by which he decides whether a person is guilty or not. If a person is found guilty, that is his action is outside the bounds set by the criterion, he condemns the accused. (Note that condemn, and damn is from the same root word - damnare - that is, to inflict loss on). In this respect I mean the judge causes a punishment to be executed. A policemen also has the same criterion, but he doesn't sit in a court and cannot condemn an accused.

So lets give an example. You drive a car. You exceed the speed limit in a reckless manner. The policeman stops you. Now he judges you, but not in the same way as the court Judge - the policeman does not condemn you - although he can rightly judge you and give you an expiation notice. Furthermore, your friend, prior to being booked told you to slow down, but you chose to ignore him or her - this is both right in the eyes of the world and biblically. Now your friend also judges you, but differently from both the policeman and the judge. And lastly, you, the driver of the car also failed to judge yourself. You did not compare the situation you put yourself in with the criterion that determined whether you were for driving in a dangerous and reckless manner.

Now you see that if one were to read Matt 71 without observing with care, Of whom it speaks, To whom it speaks Why and When and Where we would end up in anarchy.

God is Judge

Firstly we a have a judge. This judge can condemn. No other can do this. He is the Lord and is the Judge that Matthew 7:1 mentions. In the Greek it is Krino. Krino is judge in every sense we know - it is used 98 times in the New Testament. It is to choose, or decide, pronounce an opinion as to the right and wrong, and passes judgement on another, that is to condemn.

Furthermore, this judge will bring a judgement which in Greek is Krisis.

John 5:22 "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,

Krisis is the separation of, it is the condemnation of, the final stating of the wrong, the sentence. This is the separation needed in the criminal court.

No human can condemn sin in this manner. In every one of the 47 cases in the New Testament Krisis belongs to God, and God alone. All krisis is based on the law that states, "The wages of sin is death" (the header power of the Law, if you like).

This is equivalent to our judge or magistrate or judge in a court. Neither you or a policeman can gaol anyone, only the judge can. He is the Krino.

Hence, you can see that humans cannot fill the place of the Krino. The vengeance for the sin of the world belongs to the Lord, not man. Man cannot condemn, and I mean this in the sense of bringing about a judgement - krisis, ie justice, and is the meaning of Matthew 71.

There is a more emphatic word for the Judge of all: krites. This is the Judge of all, the high chief justice if you will.

Hebrews 1222 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge (Krites] of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Yes God is Judge of all. There is none higher than Him. Krites is the word used for the Greek procurator - Pilate was the procurator of Jerusalem, Samaria and Idumea. He alone could condemn to death.

Christians have to Judge

But Christians are called to judge. If we slightly alter the Greek Krino to anakrino, we still have a word that can be rendered judge. Look at

1 Corinthians 215 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged (anakrino) by no one.

A Christian must judge - anakrino - all things.

Here we have the sense of examination, of inquiring into, scrutinising of the questioning of. It is what a policeman does. In some versions of the Bible it is rendered "discern".

You as a Christians must anakrino everything I have said. This is the hallmark of a Christian. Look at the Bereans in Acts

Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily [to find out] whether these things were so.

Note that the Berean saints did not anakrino against what they thought was right. Read the verse carefully - they searched. But what? - "the Scriptures". This is the criterion. The policeman doesn't just arbitrary set his speed gun and book you at whim. There is a clear and unambiguous criterion which he uses to set the cut-off point, after which he will stop you.

Note that anakrino is not a right or a privilege. Tolerance of sin cannot be part of your life. You must discern what pleases God.

1 Corinthians 215 But he who is spiritual judges (anakrino) all things.

The spiritual minded is able to discern all things, that is decide what is right or wrong. Not you alone, but the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.

The Kriterion

What is our criterion? What sets our boundaries?

Hebrews 411 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Here we see the word discerner. It comes from the Greek kritikos and relates to judging. It is where we get our work "critical" from, a discriminator, the work of a criterion.

Hence, we have a means to decide - there is nothing for us to do. We don't make up rules, we use the Bible to decided.

"I say honour you mother and father". You say don't judge. I'm not judging you, I'm merely telling you God's will - these words are the words of the Law, which Jesus repeats as does the Apostles - so don't argue: do it!. The policeman reads the law to you. He is not condemning you - he can't put you in gaol, but he can certainly tell you the law. (The expiation is not a condemnation notice - you have the right, in most jurisdictions, to argue your case in court before a Judge).

The reason why wolves are allowed come into the assembly and destroy it, ie into the congregation, is because there is no anakrino. It even happened 3500 years ago.

2 Timothy 3:1-8 ...Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith.

It happens today

Jude 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christians discern or decide - and separate out.

One of the most often carried out tasks of a Christian, which Satan attempts to intervene in, is the process of discernment. The Greek again has the root "judge" - it is diakrino. Dia is a word denoting a channel, a way across - hence diaphragm - a membrane across an opening or dialogue - to communicate between (across) two people. The word means to separate, hence "dia", to discriminate.

Jesus uses the word when he talks about interpreting the sky. One can discern what the weather can be by the colour of the sky in the morning or evening (Matthew 163 ).

We must discern right from wrong and then separate it out. A young person seeking a mate for life must - there is no "maybe" or "if would I like to" - must discern whether the person is a Christian or not. There is no condemnation if the person being judged is not a believer - God will deal with him or her if, on the day of reckoning, they have not accepted Jesus Christ as their saviour. Hence, there is a judgement - of the discernment type - diakrino, without condemnation. The young person seeking a mate for life moves on, if the criterion is not met: that of being unequally yoked.

Where does Scripture use diakrino.

Chapter 6 of 1st Corinthians is about going to the law - in this case kriterion - a tribunal, noting this chapter is not about criminal law. Chapter 6 of 1 Corinthians has been use by sects to harbour and protect criminals due to failure to understand it. Essentially the chapter says if two Christians have a grievance or a dispute between them, then do not take it to a worldly court but decide, that is, judge the case in the assembly, as a kriterion, a tribunal. Why? - The world is full of reprobates, Christians have a discerner within them, more powerful than any the world has seen - the Holy Spirit - therefore, Paul says, decide these matters within the assembly. This is where in Matthew we get - "were two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst" (Matthew 1820). This verse is from a chapter concerning misdemeanours in the assembly and the calling of witnesses, to judge the right from the wrong.

In these cases a right can be demanded, as in the civil court, but condemnation cannot be given. Man cannot krisis, that is Christian cannot condemn another to death - for the wages of sin is death - all sin - only Christ does this.

But a Christian has a right, nay a responsibility to judge another.

1 Corinthians 65 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge (diakrino) between his brethren?

Here the judge is to discriminate, to decide. We cannot condemn in the Biblical sense, but look at the consequences of the offending saint. "not even to eat with such a person", 1 Corinthians 511.


1 Corinthians 511 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner--not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."

Yes, we must judge those on the inside. It is the krino. Failure to do so, will put us where Paul warns Timothy in 2 Timothy 3.

Hence, we are not allowed to tolerate sin, especially sin that can affect all in the assembly including sexual immorality, idolatry, covetousness etc (as listed in 1 Corinthians chapter 5) amongst so called Christians. This is our domain. Yes we have to tolerate the world, because we are in it. But we cannot be part of it - citizens on a foreign journey is our lot in a strange country.


There is one final version of judge I want to allude to. That is hupokrites. It is quite obvious what this word stands for - hypocrite. It actually means "the one who answers", applied to the stage, where puppets are used, or large masks, hence the voice was not connected to a "face". Hence, its current meaning of pretence - appearing to be virtuous, but being rotten to the core. Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrites in chapter 23 of Matthew

Matthew 2313 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Etc.

Paul warns the Romans of this in Romans 21 - you condemn your self when you judge, because you do the same thing.

This is an important aspect. Ever wondered why two books of the Bible carry the qualifications of an elder, both in minute detail. I'm sure the Lord thought it was mighty important, hence two long discourses in Timothy and Titus are found. The reason - to prevent hypocrisy. Why are there so many instructions to parents - the same reason - to prevent hypocrisy.

Proverbs 207 The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.

In some ways integrity is the antithesis - the opposite of hypocrisy.

What is the sure way to provoke your children to anger - hypocrisy.

Colossians 321 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

How do we deal with this.

  • Do as Paul did. We must die daily. We have to put off the selfishness daily, put aside the dirt of the world daily. We don't do it alone, we do it the Holy Spirit, our guarantee of our inheritance. We do it by daily reading the Bible, by daily praying, by daily mediating on the way of the Lord, and those married, praying with their spouses and children.
  • In all things, we must ask one pertinent question. Does the action I'm about to take please the Lord?
  • If this is too abstract try: If Jesus was in my shoes or my situation, what would he do?
  • Or as my mother would ask, Could you kneel to pray?


Tolerance is the forbearance or something or someone. In the parlance of a Christian it usually can be substituted with the word love, especially when dealing with the world:

Luke 627 Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

A Christian cannot condemn a sinner. Christ will do this. A Christian is not of the world, merely a sojourner passing through, therefore, does not condemn sinners around him or her - he or she must be a witness to the gospel of Christ to these.

A Christian must however not tolerate sin in his or her life. Not even faintly. Parents, we cannot go along with the world and tolerate sin in our children's lives. Being intolerant of sin in our children's lives does not mean we beat them up - we need to discipline them in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Elders cannot be tolerant of sin in the assembly. Paul warns Timothy emphatically, and Jude warns Christians, that tolerance of sin in the assembly leads to disaster. This means we must discern - anakrino, using the criterion given us - Scripture. The manner in which the eldership deals with such is in love, the method is as Jesus sets out in Matthew 18. All is done with the guidance of the Holy Spirit - we must make decisions - by judging right from wrong - and carry them out - diakrino, even if this means not eating with the backslidden saint.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. ..(17) Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.


[1] This is a continuation on a series subtitled "Christian Living", most of which have not been published on the web yet.

David L Simon, (2002 CCC)
Worldly concepts\Worldly concepts - tolerance versus discernment.doc
Web verion April 2007, Edited July 2012