Christian Tolerance, the Public Square, and Homosexuality: Day 28
Updated: Nov 11
‘It is important to be clear about the definition of tolerance and its place among Christian virtues. While tolerance may be a virtue in many instances, love holds a superior place in a Christian worldview (1 Cor. 13:13). Love and tolerance overlap but are not identical concepts. The Bible describes a God who loves the entire world but does not tolerate sin. In fact, in the few instances when words that could be translated as tolerance or intolerance occur in the biblical text, they generally appear in contexts that condemn tolerance of wickedness and immorality in the midst of God’s people. Rev. 2:20 is a case in point: “But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols” Of course…Jesus’ injunction against judging (Lk. 6:37) and His chastisement of hypocrites who were eager to take the speck out of another’s “eye” but blind to the log in their own (Lk. 6: 41, 42) are two texts that come quickly to mind...Nevertheless, the biblical data should give a person pause before trumpeting tolerance as the central Christian or biblical virtue. Toleration of immoral sexual practice was a vice, not a virtue. So, rather than elevate tolerance to the highest position, one might do better to lift up one of the Christian virtues that Paul cites as fruits of the Spirit in Gal 5:22, 23…Unlike the word tolerance, none of these virtues implies any reduction of moral resolve against sinful behavior. If same-sex intercourse is indeed sin, then an appeal to tolerance is largely misplaced.’ (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, pp. 27, 28)
‘On matters of public policy, Christians should work toward a society that neither prosecutes nor promotes homosexual behavior. In effect, this means, positively, that Christians should support the decriminalization of homosexual behavior and full prosecution of crimes against homosexuals. At the same time, the church should oppose any attempts to make “sexual orientation” a specially protected class, or to grant to same-sex relationships status and benefits comparable to those married couples receive.’ (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 491)
Here Gagnon challenges the ‘judge not’ anything or anyone posture that prevails in the world today. Though we all ‘tolerate’ persons in their becoming who God made them to be (fits and starts in route!), we realize at the same time that we’ve a hand to play in helping that beloved one to shine (or deflect) His light. We strive to activate all of our faculties to encourage the best in them. That means we discourage sinful barriers to their becoming. What are friends for? We must make righteous judgments, first about ourselves, then those we love! Temper this with what one pastor said to me: ‘For each one correction, give five encouragements.’
But get real with the ‘Jezebels’ in our churches ‘who lead God’s servants into sexual immorality.’ As Gagnon points out, we don’t tolerate false teachers; we correct them plainly so that they do not mess with the sheep! Like Jesus who purged His Father’s house of robbers, we can seek to do the same with bearers of false mercy who are all inclusion, no repentance, when it comes to sexual sinners. We fuse compassion and holiness with Jesus’ Kingdom; our Savior encounters us kindly while insisting we leave old lovers behind.
Rightfully, Gagnon urges us to ‘neither prosecute not promote’ gay stuff in the public square. I love that. Our western culture has decriminalized all kinds of adult consensual sin, sexually-speaking. We don’t, and we shouldn’t, scapegoat same-gender stuff. Yet nor do we make room for ‘gay’ special interests, as if possessing a tendency gives one ‘protected’ status. Unlike gender and ethnicity, LGBTQ+ identities are neither inborn nor immutable.
Though our Supreme Court disagreed with us in its ‘gay marriage’ decision in 2015 and in its June 2020 ‘Bostock’ rule, we soldier on in the truth. Gagnon helps us here to forego the now common habit of allowing LGBTQ+ groups to form, often in Jesus’ name (at Christian schools etc.). Don’t tolerate that! When we do, we feed the monster of LGBTQ+ everything. Give an inch, they take a mile. In humility, broken by our sin, make righteous judgments.
‘Jesus, help us to tolerate what we must, correct what we can and endow it all with a spirit of godly encouragement for what is good, true and beautiful. Thank You that You are helping us to discern truth from falsehood, real mercy from fake. Grow us in holy love that makes You glad and makes us helpful for Your Kingdom.’
‘Jesus, show us Your way through the uneven, deeply divided ground of our nation. Please compose and restrain explosive hearts. Use us as instruments of Your peace. “O blood and water which gushed forth from the heart of Savior Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, we trust in You.”’