The prophecy of the Messiah, in Isaiah chapter nine, tells us “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder” (vs. 6). “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever” (vs. 7). In light of this verse, since the Bible teaches that government is on Christ’s shoulders, what does that imply for mankind? What does this imply for the governing of God’s kingdom-people? Certainly, when considering the implications of God’s ways, many questions come to mind. Among those questions, Christian liberty and tolerance deserve strong considerations.
In Christianity, tolerance is one of the virtues that emerge out of love and humility. It is in essence derived from the commandments to love God and to love thy neighbor, as well as possessing a respect for freedom. These virtues also include forgiveness and are therefore integral components of liberty, truth, and community.
The word tolerance is derived from the Latin word tolerare, meaning to bear or forbearance. It is described as the capacity to endure pain or hardship; or, the allowable deviation from a standard. Toleration is the act or practice of allowing something with endurance, fortitude, and stamina.
Toleration as a Christian virtue requires a connection to a philosophical set of values or standards that are derived from God’s law-word. If tolerance is separated from a set of values and made absolute, it eventually leads to increased nihilistic and disruptive behaviors in a community. On the other hand – a forced coercion to a set of values will lead to tyranny and totalitarianism. Tolerance, therefore, must remain open to innumerable undiscovered truths between life’s certainties and uncertainties; while at the same time remain conscious of certain transcendent values of righteousness. The ‘virtue of tolerance’ in Christian life, thus, reflects an eager desire for deeper truths, more valued relationships, and potentially, a more healthy and harmonious community.
The Scriptures teach that believers in Jesus Christ are a separated or ‘holy people.’ God has supernaturally separated believers from non-believing peoples; believers are separated from unbelievers by faith through salvation. This separation, in part, is to help preserve, protect, and grow Christ’s kingdom church as well as His religious and moral order from generation to generation. Christians are also called to live amongst unbelievers and be a living witness to them. Believers not only have a duty to manifest righteous God-ordained behavior inwardly towards fellow believers, but also outwardly towards unbelievers by living peaceable lives that embody; love, grace, mercy, charity, and righteousness/justice.
Christ taught believers to embody the attitudes expressed in His ‘beatitudes’ and the ‘golden rule.’ At the same time, they are not to be naive to differences with unbelievers, nor embrace or embody evil under the banner of ‘unity’ or ‘tolerance.’ Believers are not called to conform to a false-unity or a false-peace by accepting and embracing unrighteousness. To help encourage, preserve, and facilitate the optimum health of communities, God has ordained certain basic civil limitations for the well-being of communities and for nations as well.
In order to have some semblance of cohesive order, a basic system of rules and laws must govern a healthy community or society. These rules and laws help to provide a certain degree of protection, safety, and justice for the overall community. The source and standard for any law system always reflects the god of that society, whether religious or non-religious. Non-religious examples would include an ancestor-culture or a culture favoring a humanistic, intellectual reasoning authority.
It has often been said, ’you cannot legislate morality,’ which is both true and false. It is true laws cannot necessarily make an individual or even a community moral. But, it is also true that all law is based on someone’s perception of morality. Laws denote a code of right and wrong, and bad laws can have devastating and disruptive effects on community life. For much of Christianity, God’s law is based on reality, and is thus, reality-expressed. Therefore, the essence of God’s law is most practical for all of civil life. For those who do not agree that God’s law should be applicable to unbelievers, please refer to Old Testament Israel, where God held unbelieving nations to His moral standards, even prior to Moses giving the law. God even punished unbelieving nations for disobeying His moral standards.
God’s law set-up the principles of true faith; principles that were further expressed in laws pertaining to: government, citizenship, taxation, militaries, marriage, religion, property, contracts, loans and interest, domestic relations, welfare, foreigners, criminality, punishment, justice, protection, sanitation, and treatment of animals.
Jesus summed up God’s law as being under the umbrella of ‘the love of God’ and ‘the love of neighbors.’ Thus, all the law and proclamations of the prophets are to be administered with the love of God and the love of neighbors in mind. Jesus demonstrated how to apply the law justly and righteously. Jesus not only applied the law justly, He did so without being legalistic.
Currently, America’s deviation into the humanistic ideal of absolute tolerance, as opposed to tolerance under Christ, has proven absolute tolerance soon becomes intolerant of Christian righteousness and justice, as well as Christianity in general. The increasing animosity towards Christianity and justice, inspires increased lawlessness – which humanists now see as virtuous behavior! The secular philosophy of absolute tolerance has not brought about the propagated path to utopia; it has only amplified human failures and horrors.
In secular world-orders power and authority begin and end with mankind, with the abuse of power being routine. Their big-government model is all encompassing — ruling and regulating all areas and spheres of life — far more so than any Christianized system.
The call for ‘tolerance under Christ’ requires reconsidering God’s ways of righteousness as the most humane path to reconstructing and influencing future social orders.