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When Tolerance is Sin

We should not be concerned by the particular flavour of insanity that is currently all the rage in society. But we should care deeply about the integrity of the church. It is a signal of poor spiritual health both when we don't tolerate what we should and when we tolerate what we shouldn't.

The UK and American church do well to consider Jesus' word's to the church at Thyatira, 

I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. (Revelation 2)

Wouldn’t you love to receive this commendation from Jesus? ‘You're feeding and clothing the poor! You're socially active. You have a huge army of volunteers sacrificing their time for the good of others in the community. Well done!’ 

Who wouldn’t be happy to hear this? Yet, Jesus then gives them a firm rebuke:

Nevertheless, I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality

Jesus is addressing an insidious, ideological trend in this late First Century church. He uses a metaphor to drive his point home. 

Hundreds of years earlier, Jezebel reigned as a queen in Israel and led the people of God into evil and immorality. Her teaching poisoned the worship of Israel and the stench of their wickedness provoked judgment from God in the form of a three year drought. Her sexually tolerant teaching became totalitariance - and she tried to murder the prophets of YHWH. 


God raised up the prophet Elijah to rebuke the passive king and his wicked queen and to call the people of God to repent. For this, Jezebel tried to kill Elijah - and successfully paralysed the prophet with intimidation. 


God never promises his people legal liberties. He promises the persecutions. 


700 years later, John the Baptist came on the scene as a prophet in the same mould of Elijah. He also called God’s people to repent and was executed at the instigation of the queen. She had him beheaded because he rebuked the royal couple for engaging in incest. She was a 2nd Jezebel - just as John had been a 2nd Elijah.



The British & American Church today

Jesus is saying that this new teaching is giving his people a false permission to be sexually immoral - like Jezebel. The word that Jesus uses – the one we translate into ‘sexual immorality’ – is the Greek word porneuĊ from which we get the modern word, pornography. It is a broad word that includes lots of specific, sexual sins including: fornication (sex between two people who are not married), adultery (sex with someone other than your spouse), sodomy and homosexual practice, incest, bestiality, etc.

Jesus’ words are relevant to us in the UK and the USA. Why? Because Jesus is not just rebuking Jezebel and her teaching. He is rebuking his church for tolerating it. Apparently, there is a type of tolerance that Jesus hates. This is a hard truth for our current culture that has been nursed on a milky understanding of inclusivity for all people and all ideas.

Jezebel’s voice is clearly being heard on both sides of the Atlantic. But what about Elijah’s? When was the last time your church gave clear teaching on Biblical sexuality? Most young Christians see little reason to object to sex before marriage. (‘They really love each other.' &  'They’ll probably get married anyway.’). There is also little backbone to confront LGBT ideology publically and so conversations about homosexual practice and attractions are kept for the backroom - if they ever happen at all. 

Jesus warns his church what will happen to Jezebel and her advocates:

I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

These words of Jesus are not directed to those Christians who are sometimes tempted by adultery, fornication or homosexual practice (some of those close to my wife and I are celibate Christians who deal with same-sex attraction). All Christians experience sexual temptation at times. Rather, the judgment that Jesus pronounces is against those who unrepentantly practice sexual immorality AND those who allow it to be said that such behaviour is permissible. 

Christ calls us to be intolerant of sexual sin in our personal lives - and intolerant those teachers who justify such behaviour in his name. 
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