Many people who reject Christianity do so because of a perceived lack of love in churches. This rejection has caused a reactionary trend that seeks to soften the disapproval of sin and magnify love. In order to reach those people who think teaching about specific sin is graceless and unloving, churches have closed the business of opposing evil.
Being wise in their own eyes, many churches have found themselves giving approval to those who practice all kinds of unrighteousness (Rom. 3:32). Slander, murder, strife, homosexuality, envy, disobedience to parents and other sins that are normalized and approved by our society, are regrettably approved by many churches as well (see Rom. 3:18-32). We think: let’s celebrate our differences, smile, think cozy thoughts, and get along. In the eyes of the world, the highest form of love has become unrestricted tolerance of sin and sinful people.
What can be done when that which is not love is said to be the highest love, and that which is authentic love is stamped as bigotry or intolerance?
First, we must remember the relationship of love to sin. The beloved apostle says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the satisfying sacrifice] for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The love of God in Jesus is all about delivering people from sin.
The world says that love ignores sin, but the Scripture asserts that love exposes it. The cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest display of love the world has ever known. It is also the clearest demonstration of our sin. The only Son of God was slaughtered as a wrath-bearing sacrifice. Therefore, to speak of love without referencing the sinfulness of man is a grave misrepresentation. How then can we speak of love if our mouths will not utter the truth that men and women are lost in sin?
Second, we must refuse to call evil good in the name of tolerance. Listen to Isaiah, “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!” (Isa. 5:20).
Redefining good and evil apart from God and the Bible is very dangerous. Woe to us if we try.
A comprehensive rebranding effort works for flailing companies, but it will not work for the church. If, in the name of tolerance, we stop speaking about the great need for salvation made plain by sin, then the cross of Jesus is useless and our love is fabricated. Calling evil good will not change the truth.
Suppose this is the sort of church you attend. A church where sin is not serious and the cross of Christ is not properly applied. How can you make a difference? Two things must be done if undiscerning tolerance is to be ousted as the imposter that it is.
First, you must realize that judgment of sin is a very prevalent truth in the Bible. You could say, “But the Bible is all about love and forgiveness, right?” From Genesis to Revelation, the forgiveness of God is necessary because wrath and judgment are real. Chemotherapy is necessary only when cancer is present. The forgiveness provided by the cross is the greatest love, not because it ignores sin, but because it deals with it.
Second, you yourself must do something in light of judgment and salvation. Maybe you have been thinking that letting sin remain in your own life or the lives of others around you has been the most loving thing to do. Consider, however, a man walking toward the edge of a cliff blindfolded. He does not see the edge approaching, and likes the feeling of the blindfold on his face. The merely tolerant person lets him proceed because he does not want to offend the man by pointing out his error. The loving person runs after the man, pleads with him to remove the blindfold and see the reality of his coming destruction.
If the tolerant person is blindfolded himself, that is one thing, but if the tolerant person sees clearly that the man will soon fall, that is another. The professing Christian who forsakes the truth of wrath and judgment upon sinful men and women, forsakes love. Real love points out the judgment that is coming and how to escape.