By: Matt Barber
“The Gospel of Christ doesn’t care about ‘tolerance.’ It cares about truth.”
These words caused me to look up from my Bible Gateway app where I was reading along with selected scriptures. Matt Short, missions pastor at One Community Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, had just uttered from the pulpit a profound reality that, regrettably, we hear far too infrequently from this millennial generation (or any generation for that matter).
After several weeks of having worshiped with this young church body, I’ve been repeatedly shocked, and pleasantly so, that, under the headship of lead pastor Paul Dudley and, clearly, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, this group of faithful 20 and 30-somethings does not sidestep truth, in love, as concerns transcendent issues that in today’s politically correct and postmodern culture (to include much of Christianity) are considered highly controversial.
Pastor Short judiciously stacked his words – words that blossomed from the very Vine of Truth Himself – upon that elusive sweet spot in the tense continuum between truth and grace: two central features of Christ’s nature that are neither mutually exclusive nor at odds with one another.
“There is nothing new under the sun,” we are reminded in Ecclesiastes 1:9.
Indeed, by today’s secular-progressive standards – and, more vexing yet, by the standards of lukewarm Christians and ministries that, under the intense thaw of postmodern paganism, fall away from the berg like vast chunks of ice – Christ Jesus Himself would, like so many of his followers today, be slandered as an “intolerant bigot” and crucified all over again.
CARTOONS | Michael Ramirez
To be sure, under the contemporary misconception of “tolerance,” which supposes that one must not only tolerate sin of every stripe, but refuse to call it even that, Christ was (and is) intolerant indeed. Rather than admonishing the adulterous woman to, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (see John 8:11), postmodernism, to include the moral relativist yeast that leavens the body of Christ, demands, at once, that our never-changing Lord change the unchangeable: “Go now and continue your life of sin.”
This is not true grace.
It is cheap grace.
And it is apostasy.
While it is true that none of us is without sin (I’m the first to drop my stone in the sand for this reason), we are nonetheless commanded to repent of our sins: “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish (Luke 13:3).”
The first step to repentance is recognizing sin for what it is and rejecting deceptive attempts to sanitize it by calling it something else (i.e., “choice,” “sexual orientation,” “she’s not my wife, but we’re soul mates” and the like). Alas, ’tis true: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).
Indeed, far too many “seeker friendly” and mainline Christian denominations do just that. They call evil good. They intentionally omit the central “repent and go and sin no more” elements of the good news (or otherwise affirm sin altogether) for fear of driving away would-be fish in the net – those slippery little buggers (aren’t we all?) who prefer whirling about in a toxic sea of temptation, rather than surrendering to the ultimate Fisher of Men.
Pastor Short, to his credit, did no such thing. In fact, he went on to address Paul’s rebuke of the church in Galatia. Much like today’s “nicer than Jesus” set, they, too, for different reasons perhaps, adopted a false gospel that, in their eyes, made them more “relevant” and palatable to the world around them.
Wrote Paul: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you,let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:6-8)
Not very tolerant.
But grace, tempered with truth, nonetheless.
“As we have already said,” Paul continued, “so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:9-10).
And so, according to Paul, those who shrink from the “full counsel of God,” are not only out of line, they are under “God’s curse.” The fall he took on the road to Damascus clearly knocked free his ability to skate the thin ice of political correctness.
Still, like the Galatians, far too many in today’s church are more concerned with not offending others, most especially those who are without Christ, and, rather than being fearless “servants of Christ,” instead have busied themselves with “trying to please people.”
And, like the Galatians, they have created a false gospel to that end.
Pleasing the world is not taking up your cross and suffering for Christ. Pleasing the world is a cakewalk. “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19).
Does the world hate you?
We can’t belong to the world and to Christ.
We must choose.