There is a sense in which the world needs broad‑mindedness and tolerance; and certainly we all need understanding and charity. However, in the realm of intolerance we are too broad‑minded in certain areas. In some things Christ was the most tolerant, broad‑minded Man that ever lived ‑ but in other things He was one of the most intolerant of men.
Tolerance Can Become Too Stretched
One of the pet words of this age is 'tolerance.' It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life. We have applied it, too often, where it does not belong. The word 'tolerant' means 'liberal,' 'broad‑minded,' 'willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one's convictions' and 'the allowance of something not wholly approved.'
Tolerance, in one sense, implies the compromise of one's convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues. Hence, over tolerance in moral issues has made us soft, flabby and devoid of convictions. We have become tolerant about divorce; we have become tolerant about the use of alcohol; we have become tolerant about delinquency; we have become tolerant about wickedness in high places; we have become tolerant about immorality; we have become tolerant about crime and we have become tolerant about godlessness.
In a book about what prominent people believe, sixty out of a hundred did not even mention God, and only eleven out of one hundred mentioned Jesus. There was a manifest tolerance toward soft character and broad‑mindedness about morals, characteristic of our day. We have been sapped of convictions, drained of our beliefs and bereft of our faith.
The sciences, however, are narrow‑minded. There is no room for careless broad‑mindedness in the laboratory. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level. It is never 100 degrees or 189 degrees, but always 212. Water freezes at 32 degrees; it is never 23 degrees or 31. Objects heavier than air always are attracted to the center of the earth. The always go down, never up. I know this is narrow, but the Law of Gravity decrees it so, and science is very narrow.
Mathematics is also very narrow‑minded. The sum of two plus two is four, never three and a half. That seems very narrow, but arithmetic is not broad‑minded. Geometry is also narrow‑minded. It says that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points on a plane. That seems very dogmatic and narrow‑minded, but geometry is intolerant.
A compass is narrow‑minded: it always points to the magnetic north. It seems that it is very narrow‑minded. If it were, ships at sea and planes in the air would be in danger.
If you should ask a man the direction to New York City and he said, 'Oh, just take any road you wish, they all lead there,' you would question either his sanity or his truthfulness. Nevertheless, we have somehow gotten it into our minds that 'all roads lead to heaven.' You hear people say, 'Do your best,' 'Be honest,' and 'Be sincere ‑ and you will make it to heaven all right.'
But Jesus Christ, who journeyed from heaven to earth and back to heaven again, who knew the way better than anyone who ever lived, said, 'Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it' (Matthew 7:13‑14).
Jesus Was Narrow About The Way of Salvation
He plainly pointed out that there are two roads in life. One is broad ‑ lacking in faith, convictions and morals. It is the easy, popular, careless way. It is the way of the crowd, the way of the majority, the way of the world. He said, 'There are many who go in by it.' But He pointed out that this road, easy though it is, popular though it may be, heavily traveled though it is, leads to destruction. And in loving, compassionate intolerance He says 'Enter by the narrow gate....Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.'
His was the intolerance of a pilot who maneuvers his plane though the storm, realizing that a single error, just one flash of broad‑mindedness, might bring disaster to all those passengers on the plane.
While flying from Korea to Japan, we ran through a rough snowstorm. When we arrived over the airport in Tokyo, the ceiling and visibility were almost zero. The pilot had to make an instrument landing. I sat up in the cockpit with the pilot and watched him sweat it out as he was brought in by ground control approach. A man in the tower at the airport talked us in. I did not want these men to be broad‑minded. I knew that our lived depended on it. Just so, when we come in for the landing in the great airport in heaven, I don't want any broad‑mindedness. I want to come in on the beam, and even though I may be considered narrow here, I want to be sure of a safe landing there.
Christ was so intolerant of our lost estate that He left His lofty throne in the heavenlies, took on Himself the form of man, suffered at the hands of evil men and died on a cruel Cross of shame to purchase our redemption. So serious was our plight that He could not look upon it lightly. With the love that was His, He could not be broad‑minded about a world held captive by its lusts, its appetites and its sins. Having paid such a fabulous price, He could not be tolerant about men and women's indifference toward Him and the redemption He had wrought. He said, 'He who is not with Me is against Me (Matthew 12:30). He also said, 'He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him' (John 3:36).
Christ spoke of two roads, two kingdoms, two masters, two rewards and two eternities. And He said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me' (John 14:6). We have the power to choose whom we will serve, but the alternative to choosing Christ brings certain destruction. Christ said that! The broad, wide, easy, popular way leads to death and destruction. Only the way of the Cross leads home. Peter was reflecting Christ's teaching when he said, 'Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name (than Jesus Christ) under heaven given among men by which we must be saved' (Acts 4:12). Paul taught the same: 'For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus' (1 Timothy 2:5).
The popular, tolerant attitude toward the Gospel of Christ is like a person going to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves play a baseball game and rooting for both sides. It would be impossible for an individual who has no loyalty to a particular team to really get into the game. And baseball fans are very intolerant in both Atlanta and Los Angeles. If you would cheer for both sides in Los Angeles or in Atlanta, someone would yell, 'Hey, you, make up your mind who you're for.'
Christ said, 'You cannot serve God and mammon.... No one can serve two masters' (Matthew 6:24). One of the sins of this age is the sin of broad‑mindedness. We need more people who will step out and say unashamedly, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord' (Joshua 24:15).
Jesus Was Intolerant Toward Hypocrisy
He pronounced more 'woes' on the Pharisees than on any other sect because they were given to outward piety, but inside they were a sham. 'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!' He said, 'For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self‑indulgence' (Matthew 23:25).
A counterfeit Christian, single‑handedly, can do more to retard the progress of the church than a dozen saints can do to move forward it. That is why Jesus was so intolerant with sham! A great church leader said that the greatest need in the church today is for church members to live what they profess.
In the book Pilgrim's Progress, Formality and Hypocrisy came tumbling over the wall into Christian's path. They were going to Mount Zion and were searching for a short‑cut. When they came to the hill called Difficulty, they shrank back. The hill was steep and high, and nearby were two roads leading downward into an enticing valley. The name of the one road was Danger; the name of the other was Destruction. Formality and Hypocrisy chose the easy roads, which led them into impassable woods and swamps, and they were head of no more.
Sham's only reward is everlasting destruction. The hypocrite has nothing but the contempt of his or her neighbors and the judgment of God hereafter. That is why Jesus said, 'Do not be like the hypocrites' (Matthew 6:16).
Jesus Was Intolerant Toward Selfishness
He said, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself' (Luke 9:23). Self‑centeredness is the basic cause of much of our distress in life. Hypochondria, a mental disorder which is accompanied by melancholy and depression, is often caused by self‑pity and self‑centeredness. Most of us suffer from spiritual nearsightedness. Our interests and our energies are too often focused upon ourselves. Jesus was intolerant with selfishness. He underscored the fact that His disciples were to live outflowingly rather than selfishly. To the rich young ruler He said, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.....'(Matthew 19:21). It wasn't the giving of his goods that Jesus demanded, but his release from selfishness and its devastating effects on his personality and life.
He was intolerant of selfishness when He said. 'For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it' (Matthew 16:25). The 'life' which Jesus urges us to lose is the selfishness that lives within us, the old nature of sin that is in conflict with God. Peter, James and John left their nets, but Jesus did not object to nets as such; it was the selfish living they symbolized that He wanted them to forsake. Matthew left the 'custom seat,' a political job, to follow Christ. But Jesus did not object to a political career as such; it was the selfish quality of living which it represented that He wanted Matthew to forsake.
So, in your life and in mine, 'self' must be crucified and Christ enthroned. He was intolerant of any other way, for He knew that selfishness and the Spirit of God cannot exist together. Jesus Was Intolerant Toward Sin
He was tolerant toward the sinner, but intolerant toward the evil which enslaves the sinner. To the adulteress He said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more (John 8:11). He forgave her because He loved her; but He condemned her sin because He loathed it with a holy hatred.
God has always been intolerant toward sin! His Word says: 'Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil....'(Isaiah 1:16). 'Awake to righteousness, and do not sin' (1 Corinthians 15:34). "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts....(Isaiah 55:7).
Christ was so intolerant toward sin that He died on the cross to free men and women from its power. 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life' (John 3:16). Sin lies at the root of most of society's difficulties today. Whatever separates a person from God disunites that person from others. The world problem will never be solved until the question of sin is settled.
But the Cross is God's answer to sin. To all who will receive the blessed news of salvation through Christ, it crosses out ‑ cancels forever ‑ sin's power.
Forest rangers know the value of the 'burn‑back' in fighting forest fires. To save an area from uncontrolled fire, they carefully burn away the trees and shrubs to create a safety barrier. When the forest fire reaches that burned‑out spot, plants and animals standing inside the area protected by the burn‑back are safe from the flames. Fire is thus fought by fire.
Calvary was a colossal fighting of fire by fire. Christ, taking on Himself all of our sins, allowed the fire of sin's judgment to fall upon Him. The area around the Cross has become a place of refuge for all who would escape the judgment of sin. Take your place with Him at the Cross; stand by the Cross; yield your life to Him who redeemed you on the Cross, and the fire of sin's judgment can never touch you.