“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who…teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality.” Revelation 2:20
These days, tolerance is often taught alongside love, mercy, and forgiveness. But when Jesus reprimanded the church at Thyatira, it wasn’t for being intolerant but tolerant. So, should Christians be tolerant? We need to understand the difference between godly tolerance and the tolerance our culture demands.
The Bible tells Christians to show tolerance to one another to preserve unity (Ephesians 4:1-3). But biblical tolerance is about bearing with one another in love; overlooking another believer’s human faults—not overlooking sin. Today, believers are pressured to change their stance on biblical issues in the name of tolerance. The church in Thyatira lived under similar pressure.
The temple of Apollo was in Thyatira and the labor guilds would host events there. Everyone in that trade was expected to attend, bow before Apollo, and engage in worship that included sexual perversion. Christians who refused to participate lost their jobs. So, rather than risking their livelihood, many compromised their faith. They became accepting of something God had condemned.
There’s still a price to pay for standing on the truth of God’s Word. That’s because the world is more intolerant of righteousness than we are of sinfulness. They misrepresent God’s love as being infinitely tolerant; as completely accepting of every lifestyle. That’s the problem with tolerance—it tries to negotiate what God has already settled.
God’s mercy tolerates sin to a point. But His mercy has a purpose–repentance. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). That’s actually the context of Jesus’ reprimand in Revelation 2, “I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality” (v21).
Should Christians be tolerant? Yes; we should humbly and patiently love one another; making allowances for one another’s faults. But we should never tolerate anything God calls sin. Yet, we do it all the time. For instance, does your entertainment include things that God condemns? Are you ignoring a pet sin in your life? Have you remained silent about biblical truth? If so, then repent and live today in the confidence that, “greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4)!